Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The tail is still wagging the dog at UF

Well, this is a fun one. I've written a couple of times before about the role of athletics at our nation's universities, and whether the tail may be wagging the dog. On both occasions, I discussed the University of Florida, which has been one of the more aggressive institutions in terms of spending on athletics while making cuts elsewhere (like, in academics).

UF clearly believes in the "front porch" theory of running an academic institution, which I've discussed (and partially debunked) in my previous posts. But even for them, this most recent decision is a head-scratcher, and makes one wonder just what the hell the senior administration at UF is thinking.
The University of Florida announced this past week that it was dropping its computer science department, which will allow it to save about $1.4 million.  The school is eliminating all funding for teaching assistants in computer science, cutting the graduate and research programs entirely, and moving the tattered remnants into other departments. 
Let’s get this straight: in the midst of a technology revolution, with a shortage of engineers and computer scientists, UF decides to cut computer science completely?... 
Meanwhile, the athletic budget for the current year is $97.7 million, an increase of more than $2 million from last year.  The increase alone would offset the savings supposedly gained by cutting computer science.
Yeesh. Ironically, Florida Governor Rick Scott just last week approved the creation of a brand new state college, Florida Polytechnic University, specifically to address the state's significant shortage of qualified workers in the so-called "STEM" fields (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Perhaps UF's cutting of the computer science department was done as part of a broader re-allocation of resources within the state's education system, perhaps not. Either way, something doesn't smell quite right here--why spend millions to create an entire new college when you can just keep (or expand on) what you've already got? It makes little to no sense to slash this department entirely (especially a department that caters to a growing industry) while plowing even more money into athletics, and the indignation throughout the blogosphere is entirely warranted. What is going on here?


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