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The Blue & Gray Press | August 18, 2019

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Universities affected by shutdown

By now, most people are aware that the government shut down last week. Some students’ parents are furloughed, some could not get access to Library of Congress and some could not work on their GIS certificate. Yet, for many universities and public schools, other serious issues arose.

The University of Mary Washington community, 45 minutes from the nation’s capitol, is feeling the consequences of actions not taken by our representatives. Away from our university though, other colleges and universities are also feeling the pain, showing that not just those working for the government are negatively affected by the shutdown.

Across the board, sexual assault, on college campuses, investigations have been put on hold.

“The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has stopped its current investigations of universities suspected of mishandling sexual violence cases on their campuses,” according to a USA Today Article.

These cases include those at UNC-Chapel Hill and the University of Virginia. In addition to the investigations, the Clergy office, a processing office for students and faculty to file a complaint against universities that allegedly do not report sexual assaults, is closed.

While most universities remain open, the military academies across the country are seeing some of the largest consequences. The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy shut down completely and sent student’s home until the end of the shutdown. In addition, the Air Force Academy and Naval Academy saw a significant number of civilian professors furloughed, cutting down the classes offered during the furlough.

For larger research universities, the research departments are dealing with little to no funding. All types of scientific research conducted at public universities have halted, according to USA Today.

According to reporter Brian Smith, “College students receiving Pell Grants and federal student loans would go largely unaffected by the shutdown, the agency states in the plan, as those programs are funded through multi-year and ongoing appropriations from Congress. However, most of the staff overseeing those programs would be furloughed except for a skeleton crew necessary to provide oversight.”

Outside of higher education, public education could see a large hit within a few months. Lower income school districts receive up to 20 percent of their funding through federal programs. While the funds are already appropriated, there is currently no one available to distribute the funding to the schools.

While some may say that the government shutdown does not affect them personally, almost all are aware of someone who is facing issues from the shutdown.

As we near an election, it is important to keep this shutdown in mind. We must elect those who will represent us in the best way possible, instead of those just looking for a seat for re-election or not budging on a party principle. As we move closer to the fiscal cliff next Thursday, the economy will be affected and unfortunately all will feel the effects.