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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman October 21, 2011

University Chancellor Frank Brogan claims anthropology is part of STEM

Gov. Rick Scott found himself at war with anthropologists when he told a radio talk show host on Oct. 10, 2011, that Florida doesn't need "a lot more anthropologists."

Instead, Scott said, the state needs more graduates in science, technology, engineering and math fields -- shortened often as STEM. (To read more about Scott's spat with anthropologists read this blog item from the St. Petersburg Times.)

Scott's pro-STEM, anti-anthropology sounding statement produced loud opposition from anthropologists and liberal arts majors. It also resulted in a simple question from state Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, to State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan.

At an Oct. 19 House committee meeting, Williams asked: "Is anthropology a STEM?"

Brogan responded: "It is."

So if anthropology is STEM, and Scott likes STEM, but Scott doesn't like anthropology ... 

The conclusion of that sentence starts with whether Brogan is right -- that anthropology is a STEM field. 

And that depends whom you ask.

National Science Foundation -- Yes. The National Science Foundation considers anthropology a STEM field, according to Mark Fiegener, a National Science Foundation project officer. Fiegener said that NSF considers anthropology to be part of the "S", or science, in STEM. "NSF considers anthropology to be a field of science – one of the social sciences, to be precise," Fiegener wrote in an e-mail. "Consequently, when we report STEM fields in our statistical reports, the data from or about anthropology departments or students are always counted in the broad 'science' category."

U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement -- No. Believe it or not, U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement has a list of STEM programs because the federal government allows foreign students on student visas who graduate with STEM degrees to remain in the U.S. for additional time to receive work experience. ICE announced in May 2011 that it expanded the list of STEM degrees -- but anthropology isn't included. 

President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology -- Kind of. The council issued a report discussing K-12 STEM education in September 2010. They specifically excluded anthropology as a STEM field for K-12 education, but they also said it was "appropriately considered STEM fields at the undergraduate and graduate levels."

Florida Board of Governors -- No. The board, which oversees the state university system and selected Brogan as university chancellor, has designated 103 STEM undergraduate and graduate degrees but not anthropology. The board, working together with the state universities, re-classified the degrees in 2008. 

Our ruling

Featured Fact-check

At a subcommittee meeting a state legislator asked Brogan "is anthropology a STEM?" and Brogan replied: "it is." The National Science Foundation agrees with him, but his own university system and U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement don't. Brogan's response suggests that the answer is simple, but in reality it's anything but clear cut and he should have explained that. We rate this claim Half True.

Our Sources

Miami Herald Naked Politics blog, "Scott: Florida doesn't need more anthropology majors," Oct. 10, 2011

Sun-Sentinel Florida Politcs blog, "Jeb LG, University chancellor system Brogan says anthropology is a STEM degree," Oct. 19, 2011

St. Petersburg Times"Jobs, legislative plans topics as Gov. Rick Scott makes two bay area stops,"Oct. 18, 2011

St. Petersburg Times"USF anthropology students to Scott: we matter," Oct. 14, 2011

St. Petersburg Times The "Buzz" blog, "Brogan: anthropology is a STEM degree," Oct. 19, 2011

St. Petersburg Times The "Buzz" blog, "Anthropologists take aim at Scott," Oct. 11, 2011

The Gainesville Sun The Chalkboard blog, "Anthropology chair reacts to governor's criticism," Oct. 11, 2011

The Ledger"Scott unveils complex job creation plan," Oct. 13, 2011

President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, "Prepare and Inspire: K-12 education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) for America's Future," September 2010

American Anthropological Association, Letter to Gov. Rick Scott, Oct. 11, 2011

Bureau of Labor Statistics,"Occupational Outlook Handbook," 2010-11

Wonkette blog, "Non-human Rick Scott lauches jihad against people who study humans," Oct. 11, 2011

Interview, Lisa-Joy Zgorski, spokeswoman National Science Foundation, Oct. 20, 2011

Interview, Mark Fiegener, Project Officer, Survey of Earned Doctorates, National Science Foundation 
Division of Science Resources Statistics, Oct. 20, 2011
Interview, Francis Eberle, Executive Director National Science Teachers Association, Oct. 19, 2011

Interview, Yvonne Ng, Assistant Professor of engineering and computers at St. Catherine, Oct. 19, 2011


Interview, Joslyn Osten, spokeswoman, American Anthropoligical Association, Oct. 20, 2011

Interview, Molly Galvin, spokeswoman National Academies, Oct. 20, 2011

Interview, Kelly Layman, spokeswoman for Florida Board of Governors, Oct. 19, 2011

Interview, Lane Wright, spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott, Oct. 19, 2011

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University Chancellor Frank Brogan claims anthropology is part of STEM

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