The effects of the first federal government shutdown in 17 years haven’t caught up with St. Thomas students yet.
Congress’ inability to come to an agreement over implementing President Barack Obama’s historic health care law Monday brought on the shutdown. While some federal agencies and departments are fully or partially closed, political science professor Kathleen Winters said there likely won’t be any noticable difference on the St. Thomas campus.
“Being a private university, there is a little difference simply because the state governments are going to feel the crunch first, so state universities may end up with faculty and staff being furloughed at some point—depends how long this takes to figure out,” Winters said.
If a shutdown is prolonged, Winters said financial aid payments could be delayed.
“If you have problems with federal student loans, you might have problems getting through to people, getting responses. There might be additional delays in getting financial aid,” Winters said.
For her biology class, sophomore Meg Thompson said she was unable to access a reading on the United States Geological Survey website because of the shutdown Tuesday, so her professor had to make different arrangements.
“Our professor had to find an alternative source for that data for us to read. It was also difficult for us to find primary literature because many scientific sites are government funded,” Thompson said.
Lt. Col. Charles D. Musselman Jr. of St. Thomas’ United States Air Force branch said the shutdown will not have an effect on the university’s ROTC program thanks to a law Obama signed Monday exempting a delay to military pay during the shutdown.
“So, here at this detachment on campus, we’re all military members … so the shutdown isn’t going to have a direct impact on us,” Musselman said.
Musselman said if the shutdown lasts for an extended period of time, it may affect ROTC’s ability to enter government contracts.
Junior Caity Kubicek said the shutdown hasn’t had any impact on her, but it did worry her fiancé.
“Personally, I am not affected by it, but my fiancé, who is in the military, has been worried for weeks that he would not be paid,” Kubicek said. “Thankfully, Congress passed a bill making sure military members will be paid.”
Sophomore Peter Moe said he thinks the shutdown was “unfortunate,” but doesn’t think it will hurt the economy.
“It’s sad that we can’t see either side of the aisle work together,” Moe said. “However, in the long run, I don’t think that the abrupt shutdown of the government will have a major impact on the United States economy.”
Junior Katherine Berglove said government shutdowns are a sign elected officials are not properly performing the duties of their jobs.
“The part of government being a democracy is that there’s going to be issues and there’s going to be conflicts,” Berglove said, “The reason that we’ve voted these people into office is because they are supposed to work them out, and if they can’t, that tells us they’re not doing their jobs.”
While opinions about the current government shutdown vary, Moe believes there could be worse things than a federal government shutdown.
“If the state government shut down, then (it would) be a bigger issue,” Moe said. “The United States government shutting down will not have an impact on the individual lives of most Americans.”