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Anthropology department reacts to Scott's announcement

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Posted: Monday, October 17, 2011 9:37 pm | Updated: 8:28 pm, Sun Nov 13, 2011.

Bad move, Slick Rick.

Gov. Rick Scott's Oct. 10 announcement of his desire to cut funding for university liberal arts programs has faculty and students concerned.

"The real issue is that he's just confused, one, about what anthropology is, and two, the role of a liberal arts education and what it can do for you," said Susan deFrance, interim department chair of anthropology.

At UF, she said, there are about 650 undergraduate anthropology students and 150 anthropology graduate students, who pursue majors and jobs in biological, medical, forensic, cultural and environmental anthropology.

DeFrance said Scott lacks understanding of what modern anthropologists do. To Scott, she said, anthropologists must seem like Indiana Jones, running around the jungle in search of lost treasure, or with people who have never had contact with western civilization.

That conception is largely false. Anthropology is an interdisciplinary major, and students who earn degrees in the subject can work in a multitude of fields.

The same is true for other liberal arts degrees, she said.

"All science happens in a social context."

To understand breakthroughs, they must be studied in a social and cultural context, as well as from a purely scientific perspective.

There is also the idea that institutions of higher learning exist for the purpose of allowing students to seek knowledge in any subject area.

"If there's a demand for anthropology majors... I think that at some point, we have a responsibility to offer that to [students]," she said.

As far as altering teaching methods if decreased funding to liberal arts programs was approved, "I don't know that we even want to entertain the idea," she said.

If any funding cuts happen, she said, there will be repercussions throughout the university. Anthropology majors aren't the only students who take anthropology courses; cutting courses would decrease the available humanities and diversity electives students in technology and engineering majors are required to take.

Welcome to the discussion.

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