Gov. Rick Scott questions value of non-STEM college degrees, posts faculty salaries, and asks Florida state-university presidents to provide data

Gov. Rick Scott certainly has given those of us interested in higher education in Florida many topics for discussion.

First, about two weeks ago, he said that Florida doesn’t need to graduate more anthropology majors. He said that the state’s public universities need to focus on graduating students who can fill the needs of current employers, especially in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

[It turns out that his daughter received an undergraduate degree in anthropology at William & Mary.]

His criticism of the lack of job value of anthropology majors not only led to a letter from the president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists but an outpouring of concern from faculty and graduates of non-STEM fields.

That controversy continues.

Then, he published university faculty salaries on his website — Florida Has a Right to Know. Faculty salaries at Florida’s eleven state universities already were public record and posted on university websites. However, the Governor’s posting and publicity surrounding that posting has brought many more people online to check out salaries.

Some faculty and university administrators have expressed concern that the listing of salaries lacks the bigger picture context — whether the person is on a 9-month or 12-month contract, whether the person is in an endowed chair or is an administrator, etc.

That controversy continues.

This past week, the media alerted us that Gov. Scott sent a letter to each of the eleven state university presidents requesting information — answers to 17 questions — to be sent to him by Nov. 15.

You should read Gov. Scott’s letter and all of his questions to have the full context. But I’ll share the four questions that I plan to pose to the graduate students in my Mass Communication Teaching course tomorrow as we consider student and teacher assessment in higher education.

Question C – Do you have measurable goals for each graduate in the areas of writing proficiency and critical thinking? If so, please send them to me with the goals and include the results for the last five to ten years.

Question E – Are professors required to integrate writing proficiency and critical thinking into all courses? If so, what oversight is provided to ensure that these skills are being taught? How are these skills integrated into course assessments?

Question I – What are the core subjects every undergraduate must complete prior to graduation?

Question K – Do you measure the readiness of new students to succeed at your university? If so, do you measure on a per-incoming-high-school basis? If so, please send me the measurement and the results for the last five to ten years.

Gov. Scott’s posing of those 17 questions, the answers universities provide to those questions, and how Gov. Scott uses the information he receives all will generate lively discussion.

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