Originally published Oct. 2, 2013

Co-written with editorial board

However embarrassing the antics of our political leaders in Washington pan out, the depressingly clear reality comes not from the steps of the capital, but at the forefront of the classroom.

Most students by now should have heard that the government has shut down for the first time in more than 17 years. More than 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed, national parks and buildings have been closed, and funding for critical programs has ceased. How did many university students react to this disappointing display of democracy?

With a resounding “so what” and “did you know the panda-cam was off?!”

The budgetary brinksmanship caused by the acidic partisanship in Congress flew well over the radar of most of the student body. This inconvenient truth begs the question: are our college students uninformed?

The short answer, yes. And this is not an unknown fact, either. Studies have shown that young adults don’t typically follow news of any kind in any format. But this is precisely the time to start paying attention, because the fact of the matter is that a government shutdown affects everyone.

As political science professor Whitt Kilburn pointed out in the Lanthorn’s front page article, “Can’t shut us down,” too many programs are tied to federal funds or information, and anyone reliant on those resources could suffer.

From disability and veteran services to academic research development, people are starting to miss out because a compromise cannot be reached by people hundreds of miles away. Does the distance of federal politics seem so far now?

Even if the politics and funding cuts don’t directly affect this state-funded school, students should be aware of what’s going on. They’re bound to be affected in some facet of their lives, and even small changes might make a huge difference in the way they go about their days.

For example, websites that students take for granted for research in classes are either shut down or are no longer being updated. Parents who work for the federal government are receiving furloughs from jobs that they’ve held for years and can no longer make tuition payments. Students who receive support for disability or veteran status may see those funds and services cut short.

So while the shutdown for the most part doesn’t directly affect Grand Valley State University or the education of its students, there are still consequences, no matter how distantly felt.

Students should pay attention. Students should care.


Original publication: http://www.lanthorn.com/article/2013/10/get-serious