The battle over preserving funding for University of Florida's CS program raises the question of what's more important: sports or academics?
The University of Florida is considering cutting $1.4 million from its
computer science budget, eliminating graduate student teachers and other aspects
of the program.
This has a lot of people (Forbes' Steve Salzberg, among them)
outraged that a school that has a $100 million nationally ranked
football program would gut/eliminate/eviscerate/filet/pick-your-word a core
part of the science curriculum. U.S. News and World Report ranked UF's CS
department 39th in the nation two years ago.
always, the truth is somewhere in the middle. It's true that the
school, like most across America, is under budget pressure. It's true
the dean of the College of Engineering has a proposal on the table to
reorganize the department. What happens is yet to happen.
the ruckus affords an opportunity for us to debate the role of athletics
in establishments founded (whenever they were founded) to educate young
men and women and advance research in the interests of society.
were not founded to teach students to hit a baseball farther, score
more points on the football fields or basketball courts. But over the
years, you'd be forgiven if you got the impression that academics was an
afterthought at many universities, smitten as they are by the almighty
revenue stream from ESPN, sporting-events gates, and apparel and foam-finger sales.
would be fine if the money supported academics but it doesn't. Most
athletic programs are run by associations not directly connected to the
academic programs. At UF, the association gives about $3 million a year
over the past two decades to academics. And often, sports-program donors
give money only to the sports programs and specify their donation is
not to be used for anything else. And like clockwork, donors routinely get called out or prosecuted for slipping money to "student"-athletes, who are taking up a space in a classroom that should be given to a student, not a semi-professional sports figure.
My take is that sports at the
college level should be intramural only. The NCAA, ESPN and the rest can
go pound sand. They'll figure out other ways to exploit young athletes
But that's just me. What do you
- Should sports be divorced from academic institutions that receive
- Should sports associations be required to fund academic programs
(not just the occasional scholarship but research programs?)
University of Florida computer-science funding crisis may not end up
with the department being gutted
or killed, but it's an alarm bell for