Monday, April 23, 2012

Forbes tries to make the University of Florida and college football look bad.

Forbes' Steven Salzberg has written an article on the possible elimination of the University of Florida computer science department has rubbed a lot of bloggers (and Gator fans) the wrong way. Here's the opening paragraphs of the story.

"Wow, no one saw this coming.  The University of Florida announced this past week that it was dropping its computer science department, which will allow it to save about $1.7 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?"

Salzberg went on to compare the possible cutting of the computer science program to a rise in the athletic department's budget.

"Meanwhile, the athletic budget for the current year is $99 million, an increase of more than $2 million from last year.  The increase alone would more than offset the savings supposedly gained by cutting computer science.

Now, I’m not saying that UF has chosen football over science.  (Imagine the outcry, though, if UF cut a major sport instead of a major science department.) Actually, the real villains here are the Florida state legislators, who have cut the budget for their flagship university by 30% over the past 6 years."

Uh, yeah, Salzberg, you're saying "UF has chosen football over science." Here's the proof in your final paragraph:

"Heads up, Gov. Scott: no one is going to believe that you’re supporting technical education when your flagship university is eliminating its Computer Science Department. Since cutting support for universities seems to be a major agenda item for you and the legislature, why stop at 30%?  With just a bit more cutting, you could get rid of those annoying universities entirely.  Let the rest of the country worry about higher education! Florida can focus on orange groves and golf courses. Oh, and football."

Of course, the Gator Nation is boiling mad about the article. Here's what Andy Hutchins of Alligator Army had to say about it.

"That's just not true: Florida athletics are run by the private, non-profit UAA (PDF), which is not funded by UF and has, indeed, donated more than $60 million to UF (PDF) since 1990.
Without getting too political, the fault for CISE's potential demise lies with a legislature (and an electorate) that does not provide the proper funding for public education as is, and a school administration that has struggled to secure that funding for Florida's flagship university. If you want to blame football for that, or "imagine the outcry, though, if UF cut a major sport instead of a major science department," you're gravely mistaken, and likely working with facts that simply don't pertain to your writing. And if you're writing that Florida is eliminating CISE — the current plan calls for the elimination of a slew of faculty positions and the merger of CISE with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, which is not quite "dropping its computer science department" — you're also wrong.

Alas, no amount of scary, fact error-riddled media coverage is likely to reveal the error of the Florida legislature's ways: This is the path for public education that was paved when Jeb Bush took office in 1999. But the least reporters could do is get the facts right."

Make no bones about it, Salzberg was trying to make UF, college athletics, Floridians, college football fans, and possibly the entire South in general look bad in this article. He totally ignored the fact (or was too lazy to find out) that The UAA donates money to the university regularly. The sick sad truth is that it (and every other athletic department and athletic foundation in the country) do not make enough money to pay for the continued financing of higher education. 

Oh yeah, Salzberg's bio says, among other things that he's "a Professor of Medicine and Biostatistics in the Institute of Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine." It says nothing about him having any actual training in journalism. Which would have probably helped in digging up facts in this article. If that was the point of it. 

(via Forbes, Alligator Army)

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