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Anthropologists take aim at Gov. Scott

The American Anthropological Association this afternoon released a letter is has sent to Gov. Rick Scott over comments he made Monday that Florida "doesn't need a lot more anthropologists in this state." "We don't need them here," he told a Daytona Beach radio host.

Scott's larger point was that Florida students would have an easier time finding jobs and help fulfill his campaign promise if they studied science, technology, engineering or math. In a move universities will oppose, Scott wants to move state money from liberal arts programs to other degrees he says will give students a better chance of finding work.

"We're spending a lot of money on education. You look at the results and they're not great. A lot of kids dropping out of school. They’re getting degrees that there is no job," Scott said today during a speech to the North East Business Association in Tallahassee. 

"I got accused of not liking anthropology in the paper the other day. But let’s think about it," Scott continued. "How many more jobs you think there is for anthropology in this state? You want to use your tax dollars to educate more people that can’t get jobs in anthropology? I don’t."

But anthropologists said Scott was being "short-sighted" by taking aim at their programs.


"It is very unfortunate that you would characterize our discipline in such a short-sighted way," AAA President Virginia R. Dominguez and Director William E. Davis wrote in their letter.

"Perhaps you are unaware that anthropologists are leaders in our nation's top science fields, making groundbreaking discoveries in areas as varied as public health, human genetics, legal history, bilingualism, the African American heritage and infant learning," the pair wrote. "We look forward to meeting with youe to share anthropology's contribution to scientific advancement, economy and well-being of your state."

University of Florida anthropology department chairwoman Susan deFrance told the Gainesville Sun today that she was "shocked" by Scott’s comments.

DeFrance said anthropology benefits Florida tourism through archaeology done in St. Augustine and other historic sites. Crime prosecution in the state benefits from forensic anthropology, she said, while medical anthropologists have researched race and health disparities in Tallahassee.

"It's not that we just go out and study primitive people in the jungle somewhere," she said. "That's very much a caricature of what anthropologists do."


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Is he even aware that the state of Florida employs an office of public archaeology? And that USF had one of the first departments of applied anthropology in the world? Does he even know what anthropologists do?

Nascar Dad

The man's point is this. If you have 100 taxpayer funded students studying anthropology, and only 10 can get jobs in the field, that's not a good use of taxpayer money. Instead of whining, the AAA should put forth some data showing the benefits to the taxpayers.


On 10/10/11, Governor Scott stated that we don’t need any more anthropology majors. As anthropologists who have worked very hard to improve Florida’s education, healthcare, economy and understanding local history, we feel that Governor Scott is poorly informed on what anthropology is. Below is a small sample of anthropologists who are working on projects that are important for Floridians.
Elizabeth McCoy: I am an Archaeologist, trained at the University of South Florida. My research is on improving how Florida’s State Parks manage and interpret cultural sites located on state lands. I work directly with park managers, local tourism bureaus, and Department of Environmental Protection officials to develop strategies that will increase park visitation and revenues, decrease park operating costs, and improve the visitor experience for all Floridians. I use the latest technology to document sites and create a digital presence for Florida’s state parks so we can continue to protect and celebrate some of Florida’s most unique resources.
Ethel Saryee: I am an Anthropologist that has begun work with South Florida Refugees. Florida is the largest refugee relocation center in the United States that currently relocates 27,210 persons annually. These refugees become Florida residents. Adverse health conditions due to persecution in their home nations puts refugees at higher risk for negative health outcomes such as chronic diseases. I am working with the departments of health to help gather data that will inform programs to help refugees maneuver the complex food systems and barriers in hopes to reduce chronic disease. This is anthropology because I use statistics and people's voices from the communities to identify the best ways to reduce risky health behaviors. By doing this I hope to decrease the cost and burden of chronic disease for the state of Florida and to increase the quality of life for Florida residents.
Elizabeth Danforth. I am an Anthropologist trained at the University of South Florida. I am currently working to create effective services for people with disabilities who have experienced sexual abuse. People with disabilities have unique cultural and structural factors which define their lives, and risks in regard to sexual violence. They also have unique healing processes, and unique perspectives on the services they need in response to abuse. I am currently conducting an ethnographic needs assessment, based in part on methods pioneered by anthropology faculty at the University of South Florida. The programs developed from this anthropological needs assessment will serve as a national model for disability support organizations and trauma services.
Carylanna Taylor: I am an Anthropologist, trained at the University of South Florida. I have worked with an interdisciplinary team through the USF Sustainable Communities field school to access hurricane preparedness among mobile home and immigrant populations in Ruskin County. My research with Honduran immigrants in Florida and New York documents the contribution that Floridians make to international community development and natural resource management efforts.
Gina Larsen: I am proud to call myself an Anthropologist, trained at the University of South Florida. I am working on a large-scale grant with other anthropologists, biologists, and geographers, focusing on how the redistribution of groundwater from rural areas of the Tampa Bay region to urban areas affects both humans and the environment (lakes and wetlands). This is anthropology at work because local resident voices are the basis of the research, as in-depth interviews with residents are a key component of our study. Our highly interdisciplinary research team is conducting important work in Florida by measuring the health of local ecosystems and sharing local resident views pertaining to the way our water is managed.
Janelle Christensen: I am a Medical Anthropologist, trained at U.C. Santa Barbara and the University of South Florida. My research is on improving hurricane preparedness for families who are caring for someone with dementia in Florida. I am collaborating with a Florida based agency, Alzheimer’s Community Care, to help caregivers improve their disaster plans. This is anthropology because I have gone to live and work with the people from whom I want to learn. I use scientific methods and mathematics in my research design, but I put these findings into context by talking with the people my research is supposed to help.
Jason E. Miller: I am an Anthropologist, trained at the University of South Florida. I moved to Florida specifically because Florida was one of only a few states that offered a degree in Applied Anthropology. In that time, I have received grants, gotten jobs, purchased a house and contributed to the economic success of this state in many other ways. My own research is focused on helping Florida parents, children and families of many different backgrounds experience a better quality of life, a strong education and access to state-of-the-art health care. Anthropologists are uniquely suited to do this kind of work because we work to understand people and the social systems in which they live. In my work, I facilitate conversations between parents, youth, schools, health care providers and other community groups to bring about positive social change. These groups often have similar goals, but do not always speak the same "language." The work of the anthropologist is to help bring these constituencies together and build a stronger community.
Maressa Dixon: For nearly a decade, anthropologists at the University of South Florida have been awarded millions of research dollars from the National Science Foundation to conduct research on the reasons students enter and stay in rigorous STEM fields. If STEM education is important, knowing what draws students to these fields and makes them successful is even more-so. Currently our work at the Alliance for Applied Research in Education and Anthropology (USF Tampa), lead by Dr. Kathy Borman, investigates the factors within Florida’s career academies and accelerated programs that influence students’ STEM course-taking throughout high school and into college and career. We talk to people and observe in schools to understand what is working and what needs improvement, and then we combine these findings with statistical analyses of larger populations to understand to what extent these trends are reflected in different areas of the state. In essence, we have dedicated our work to improving the very STEM education programs that have only recently become a priority to policymakers in the state.
Margeaux Chavez: I am an Anthropologist, trained at the University of South Florida. I work for the Alliance for Applied Research in Education and Anthropology (AAREA) at USF. As an organization, we collaborate with the Florida Department of Education, United States Department of Education, various Florida school districts, and the National Science Foundation. This organization has created jobs and brought millions of dollars to our communities. Our multi-disciplinary team researches STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) based curricula and programming in the state of Florida from kindergarten through college. This is anthropology because we work as an interdisciplinary team, using qualitative and quantitative scientific methodology to investigate and evaluate the impact of the educational reforms paid for by tax dollars. We use science to help solve the problems facing our communities. The statistics/ data used by Rick Scott to extol the virtues of STEM education at the expense of other disciplines are brought to you by anthropologists.
Melissa Pope: I am a Biological Anthropologist, trained in Applied Anthropology at the University of South Florida. My research is on estimating the amount of time between when a person dies and when the body is discovered. This research helps to reconstruct events surrounding unexpected deaths, and is particularly critical in cases of homicide, where the time of death is essential to establishing investigative leads and helping solve a crime. Estimating when a person died is highly dependent on the geographic region and the social context. I collaborate with local law enforcement agencies as well as the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office so that my research will better assist them in forensic investigations within the Tampa Bay area. All forensic evidence is subject to the judicial system’s high standards for admittance into court. It is imperative that my research is quantified, accurate, reflexive and relevant. Therefore, my research is not only scientific, but also has broader application to the forensic community and the greater public.
Nolan Kline: I am an Anthropologist trained at the University of South Florida. My research has focused on access to health services among agricultural workers in Florida. I have collaborated with faith-based organizations to understand how they aid needy populations that have few primary care options available to them. This is anthropology because I look at how non-government organizations help populations that cannot access regular health services. These populations ultimately visit emergent rooms when their health needs are greatest and most costly. In my work, I have used structured interview techniques and food security surveys to measure poverty and understand how faith-based organizations provide care to people who cannot afford health insurance, and how these organizations save our entire health system money by treating patents before they end up going to an emergency room.
Robert Cowherd: I am a Medical Anthropologist, trained at the University of South Florida. In the past year I have done research with a Florida-based agency that has helped improve access to healthcare for Farmworkers in the state of Florida. This is anthropology because I have worked along side farmworkers and medical practitioners to understand both the needs of the farmworkers and the barriers to care faced by the medical community serving this population. Using the scientific method, advanced statistics and interviews with farmworkers, nurses and doctors working in the field, I was able to make recommendations that resulted in improved medication distribution and the implementation of a diabetes education program.
Robert D. Bowers: I received both my B.A. and my M.A. in Applied Anthropology at the University of South Florida. I research poverty, race and homelessness. I have worked on assessing a homeless shelter program to improve outcomes for their clients. As an applied anthropologist, I am an advocate for the poor and I work to expose and fight racism. I also have training as an archaeologist and I am currently helping to do bone chemistry analysis on cold-case skeletons found in Hillsborough County. This will help to provide information to identify the individuals and hopefully bring closure to the cases.
Wendy Hathaway: I am an Anthropologist, trained at the University of Florida and the University of South Florida. My current research is on improving health care delivery for veterans at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This is anthropology because I use anthropological theories and methods to find out what is going on in veteran health care systems from multiple points of view--veterans, health care providers, and key administrators. I use both qualitative and quantitative methods to help policy makers and health care professionals provide the best care to Florida's veterans.
David McCormick: I am an anthropologist, trained at the University of South Florida who has worked both in the United States and Honduras. I have worked on various archaeological surveys in conjunction with infrastructure development in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. My thesis work has explored the applications of existing technology to answer questions of chemical composition. Working in Honduras I have had the chance to work with the National Government and the Indigenous Community to foster archaeological tourism. Most recently, I worked as a contractor for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in developing and administering training sessions for adults and adolescents on the subject of “Race” in the United States.

Liberal Art

Nascar Dad.
~ really ?
What degree(s) do you need to drive for NASCAR ?

Linda Miller

Students at Florida's public universities can benefit a great deal by taking one or more anthropology courses, no matter what their major or future job prospects. Majors and jobs often do not correspond. Anthropology opens students' eyes to many worldviews, societies, and cultures. Lessons from anthropology can benefit people in many jobs. Not everyone needs to earn degrees in anthropology, as I did from the University of Florida in 1982. But I believe my teaching career has allowed students in many walks of life to think about fundadmental issues of what it means to be human.


Can't believe he said this type of stuff. I earned a B.A, in Anthropology from USF and I believe it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I was trained in general to look at the big picture of almost anything, especially the human condition. Anthropology is not a useless degree. It is one of the most useful, varied, and applicable of degrees out there. Like all have said. We anthropologists study and use our skills towards everything...genetics, tourism, forensics, language, human patterns. The most fulfilling thing I ever did at USF was uncover, excavate gravestones at a paupers/indigent cemetery. My fellow students, professors, and I gave some dignity back to those who's dignity had been covered up by weeds, dirt and overgrowth. Anthropologists are here to help everyone from the past, present, and future in some shape or form. If that is not worthy or respectable. Then tell me, what is?


Nascar Dad, are you a Communist? Do you endorse communistic ideas?

"Education will enable young people quickly to familiarize themselves with the whole system of production and to pass from one branch of production to another in response to the needs of society..."

Blam! Direct from Frederick Engels' "The Principles of Communism" in 1847.

I guess it's only communism if it's a liberal who comes up with an idea?

Nascar Dad

I didn't say it was a bad idea to study anthropology. The debate here is whether or not anthropology programs should be taxpayer funded. Honestly, I don't know and don't care.

No one is communist here, you may believe taxpayers should fund university programs that can't sustain themselves, I prefer the free market system that says if it's important enough it will sustain itself.

Nascar Dad

Are you freaking kidding me, Janelle? Let me choose one.

"I am a Medical Anthropologist, trained at U.C. Santa Barbara and the University of South Florida. My research is on improving hurricane preparedness for families who are caring for someone with dementia in Florida. I am collaborating with a Florida based agency, Alzheimer’s Community Care, to help caregivers improve their disaster plans. This is anthropology because I have gone to live and work with the people from whom I want to learn. I use scientific methods and mathematics in my research design, but I put these findings into context by talking with the people my research is supposed to help."

Let me help. I'm not a trained anthropologist, but if I'm a caregiver to a person with dementia and there is a hurricane coming, wait for it...

I'm going to get them the hell out of the way. Look at that, no grants, no taxpayer subsidies, and the problem is solved.

Anne Younger

This is such a laugh. anyone who has visited USF and seen the building where they teach anthropology and then the building where they teach chemistry can see where the state's money is already going. Liberal arts are fields that directly relate to being human beings. These are the areas that support civilization, not science, and math. I wonder how much time Rick Scott spent in the class room. Judging by his horrible grammar and wacky ideas about budgets, I'd say he skipped the liberal arts and the math. Only people who have minimal education sneer at scholarship. The term "ivory tower" was not coined by a scholar.

Anne Younger

Nascar Dad,

Scott is also taking on journalism, English, history, communication, and a whole host of fields under the heading of liberal arts. You might think that anthropology is an esoteric field (that means only understood by a few) but actually applied anthropology is used by business and governments to study how people behave.

They design ad campaigns and create public policy based on studies such as the one described by Janelle. When a policy maker wants to introduce a new idea to the population, they go first to an anthropologist.

If you had actually read what Scott said about this, you would see that he is talking about jobs.

Florida already has industries seeking workers in liberal arts fields, such as technical writing and marketing. Engineering and technology are not necessarily growing fields in Florida. So he thinks that by having more unemployed mathmeticians will attract more business to the state.



From the "king" of technology Steve Jobs “tech alone is not enough. it's tech married w/lib arts married w/humanities that yields us the result to makes our heart sing."


What I find really interesting is that Rick Scott seems to believe that all anthropologists are only seeking a job labeled "anthropologist" rather than using their degree to learn the skills or shape their perspective on the position they have set their sights on.

For the uninformed there are a number of subfields contained within the discipline of Anthropology: Archaeology, Biological (which can include everything from forensic anthropology to genetics to medical anthropology and even primatology), Cultural, Linguistics, and Applied. For example, at the UF Anthropology Department, there are faculty members that work with law enforcement all over the state of Florida investigating human remains and testifying in criminal trials. There are faculty members working on applied issues of immigration, disaster response, public health, education, human rights and many more.

BAs, MAs and PhDs with Anthro degrees work in all areas of the work force from government positions to the military to business/industry to the medical and legal fields. These people have not "settled" for a job outside of Anthropology, but rather are using the skills they have acquired to further their career opportunities and goals. Anthropology, given its very foundation as an interdisciplinary field, is often combined with other degrees.

One last comment and feel free to look this up, but I have been told that the National Science Foundation currently lists Anthropology as a STEM discipline. Apparently "science" means something different to Rick Scott.


Well, guess what Rickie, I'm not even an Anthropologist but it's clear that you don't want 'my type' in Florida, so I won't come, and I'll encourage all the associations I belong to not to hold conferences in Florida, and Ill encourage all the others that I know not to visit Florida on vacation. Don't want us Rickie? No fears, we won't come and neither will our cash. You are the slow trickle of death for Florida.


Perhaps he does not realize how little state funding actually goes to anthropology, and how much money it does bring in.

Now that Florida State has done away with most of the their anthropology program, Florida still has University of Florida (one of the top national public programs), University of South Florida (one of the top applied programs), and Western Florida (probably the top underwater archaeology program - which yes, is a growing field, and yes, does bring in money).

The state pays professors' salaries, but little besides that. Research carried out by professors and graduate students are funded by outside sources when professors apply for grants - federal government (such as the National Science Foundation who DOES include anthropology as a STEM aka science/technology/engineering/math field), private foundations, police departments, health departments, etc. The universities also benefit from these grants.

Furthermore, as a growing major, anthropology brings in lots of undergraduate students and tuition dollars, even out-of-state students. If Florida schools cut out anthropology programs, under current contracts students would be able to apply to other Southeastern schools that do have their intended area of study under a reciprocal agreement, and USF/UF/UWF would lose those tuition dollars to University of Georgia and South Carolina. A big ouch for all those gator fans. Hmmm....looks like someone should have checked out his economics first...

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