Gov. Rick Scott to reallocate funding to STEM majors
Published: Saturday, October 22, 2011
Updated: Sunday, October 23, 2011 17:10
UCF's liberal arts programs may experience deep cuts this upcoming year due to the governor's plan to reallocate university funding.
Last week, Gov. Rick Scott made several statements implying that degrees such as anthropology are less valuable to the job market than other majors and should not receive as much state funding as science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs.
These fields of study are commonly known as "STEM" disciplines, and they have received boosts in funding since Scott has taken office.
"Do you want to use your tax dollars to educate more people who can't get jobs in anthropology? I don't," Scott said in a speech for a business group luncheon in Tallahassee earlier this month. "I want to make sure that we spend our dollars where people can get jobs when they get out."
Scott has also suggested that degrees such as psychology and journalism are also non-beneficial to the state's economy, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Arlen Chase, chair for the UCF anthropology department, said that Scott most likely wants to make these these changes because he has been unable to create the jobs that he promised would materialize once he became governor.
"He's grasping at straws," Chase said. "The truth is, it's not that easy to get a job with a math degree or a physics degree, either."
But according to an article by Reuters, manufacturing companies such as Motorola, Caterpillar and Siemens are having difficulty filling positions, more than half of which require STEM-related skills.
Glen McGhee, director of the Florida Higher Education Accountability Project, said that Scott might be responding to the mismatch between degrees being produced and the apparent need for STEM majors in the workplace.
"As an engineer, as a scientist, I definitely am for more funding for STEM," said Essam Radwan, interim chair for the UCF department of civil, environmental and construction engineering. "We need to replenish the number of scientists in this country and compete with science in China and India and Brazil."
According to its website, the National Science Foundation recognizes anthropology as a STEM discipline under "social, economic and behavioral sciences," which contradicts Scott's desire to shift funds away from the field in favor of the STEM-related majors.
Florida universities require all students to graduate with a solid liberal arts background through their general education requirements, and Chase said that these disciplines receiving decreased funding could threaten the STEM accreditation process.
"He'll kill STEM," Chase said. "All of the university is interconnected. It's the totality of what you're getting through different classes. You can't break them into parts."
Anthropology is the study of humans, past and present. Chase said that an anthropologist's role in the job market is versatile and that many businesses are currently hiring those with anthropology degrees to study weaknesses within the workplace.
"He's set the parameters incorrectly," Chase said. "If workforce demands are for an intelligent individual that understands people, anthropology majors meet that need."
UCF currently has 3,767 undergraduate psychology majors and 407 anthropology majors.
"It's not as if our anthropology department has the most funding to begin with, so the fact that even more money would be allocated elsewhere doesn't bode well for future students," said Dave Birnbaum, senior anthropology major and president of the UCF anthropology club Hominids Anonymous. "More incoming freshmen are going to have less lab classes and less personal interaction with professors."
In a statement released to the Central Florida Future regarding Scott's proposed changes to university funding, UCF Provost Tony Waldrop said, "[We] strongly support allocating additional resources, as they become available, to the STEM disciplines and related fields. They are important to our university.
"We also believe that anthropology and the social sciences are equally important to the university and to society and should be fully supported," Waldrop said in the statement.
Birnbaum said that Hominids Anonymous members, as well as several other non-affiliated anthropology majors, are currently drafting a letter to the governor that outlines why anthropology is important to our state economy.
"I think that he is driven by the bottom line, and that has taken over his ideas about everything," senior anthropology major Rhae Royal said. "[Universities] and schooling were not founded on those sorts of ideals; they were founded on liberal arts. Everyone should have equal [opportunities]. Education is not a business."