Senator visits to discuss student concerns
Michelle Hennessy – News Writer
Southern’s Organization for Latin American Students was joined by the United States Senator for Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, for a discussion on issues that impact students such as immigration, minimum wage and student loans.
President Mary Papazian, who opened the discussion, said Blumenthal was “unflinching when it comes to looking at the real issues.”
Blumenthal said that the purpose of his visit last Thursday was to inform students about tough issues facing the U.S., and to get insight into what it is that challenges students, and how that can be relieved.
“I am here to listen,” said Blumenthal. “Over the next few months in Washington, we’re going to be making decisions that will affect you and you have the insight and perspective that we want to hear about.”
Blumenthal said there were three main topics he wanted to discuss: immigration, college tuition and sexual assault on campus, all of which he said impact all Americans.
“I have been a champion for reforming our immigration system,” said Blumenthal. “There are ways that we are all negatively impacted by the way it is at the moment.”
Graduate student Chi Anako said the Senator’s remarks on immigration were very helpful to students.
“I think the information he has given us has been very beneficial and is something that we can relay to family members who may not necessarily be aware of what immigration reform means,” said Anako. “Being a child of two immigrants from another country, I know this is something that in particular affects my family.”
During the discussion Blumenthal offered advice to students looking for jobs in a competitive market.
“Never be afraid to take a job that you think is too demanding because what you don’t know you’ll learn,” said Blumenthal. “If you have a dream then now is the time to pursue it.”
Minimum wage was also brought up in the discussion. Blumenthal said he championed the increase in minimum wage, but said more would need to be done to close the inequality gap that exists for the middle class.
“Minimum wage is a stepping stone along the way, it’s not the destination,” said Blumenthal. “We want people to be able to have that as a minimum to survive off, but to reach higher and get better paid jobs. What we need to do is create more jobs, more good paying jobs for a more secure economy.”
Blumenthal explained how an increase in minimum wage doesn’t impact the job market negatively, contrary to what many opponents have said.
“People say that if employees are paid more then employers will cut down on staff but that will only affect a small number of businesses for a small amount of time,” said Blumenthal. “Because if people get paid more, they spend more and put the money back into these businesses.”
The changes to minimum wage has a big impact on students, according to senior Tanay Moore.
“I’m a college student and I’m graduating this semester so I’m going to be going into the workforce, if I don’t decide to go into my Master’s program, so it is an issue concerning wages,” said Moore. “Connecticut I think among three other states, has the highest minimum wage, but we also have the highest cost of living.”
One of the main topics for the discussion was the cost of tuition in the United States. Blumenthal said the way tuition and loans are at the moment is damaging to the economy and more needs to be done to help students.
“At the moment the government makes money off of student loans; it gets more money than it spends,” said Blumenthal. “Something is wrong there because we should at the very most breaking even.”
Blumenthal emphasized the need to invest in the up-and-coming generation, as this is one of America’s strongest assets.
“What this country has that no other country has, in addition to our freedom, we have great people,” said Blumenthal. “People with ability who are going to college, these aren’t the people that we should be saddling off with debt, these are the people we should be investing in.”