Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rick Scott: We Don't Need Anthropology

On October 10th, Florida Governor Rick Scott made a startling announcement about his ideas to reform Florida higher education: he wants to decrease funding for non-STEM disciplines (STEM refers to science, technology, engineering, and math) so Florida produces the "right" graduates who will get jobs.

“It’s sheer and utter nonsense,” said former University of Florida President Charles E. Young. “They have a total lack of understanding about what a university is and what universities do.”

In addition, he is attacking tenure because it places an emphasis on research instead of teaching. Faculty members must publish quality, original research in order to get tenure. Tenure is a system that was developed to protect researchers who published about unpopular ideas. The idea was that if someone was afraid of losing their job, they wouldn't be honest about their work, and thus they would be censoring their own research so they could continue to put food on the table for themselves and their family.

Rick Scott wants to abolish tenure entirely, because he wants the focus to be entirely based on teaching. He says that the quality of a researcher's work will provide job security, but that doesn't even get close to protecting them against unpopular research, especially when the governor has his hand in everyday affairs of the state universities.

“I haven’t heard one university president say we have to do something about tenure or go after our faculty because they know the reputation of their institutions is based on their faculty,” said former University of South Florida president Betty Castor.

Would abolishing tenure cause high-quality faculty to leave Florida and/or not apply to Florida universities at all? I would argue yes.

Anthropology graduate students in Florida have begun to talk back about these insane "reforms" Rick Scott is proposing. In their presentation below, they showcase current research that anthropology students are doing in Florida that not only help Floridians in many different ways, but also have a global scope, which is arguably what anthropology is all about.

I don't understand how Rick Scott can think that research isn't important - that learning about the world around us, especially we as human beings operate in the world, isn't important. What kind of world would it be if we de-funded every discipline except STEM disciplines?

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