Senator Bernie Sanders visits UVM and stresses student engagement

The Cynic had the chance to talk to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who visited UVM on March 21 to speak at professor Daniel Krymkowski’s Introduction to Sociology class. In a phone interview, Sanders said that he enjoys visiting college campuses and speaking with college students because he feels that young people are not as politically active as other voters. “My hope is that Vermont and U.S. students would be deeply engaged,” he said. “This generation of college students will be facing unparalleled problems as they get older: health care, nuclear energy, the environment, a huge national debt.” Sanders said that students should be especially concerned about the proposed cuts to Pell Grants. “Students at UVM should know that if the Republican proposal goes through, we’ll be looking at the average Pell Grant being reduced by 17 percent,” he said. “9.4 million students would lose some or all of their award.” Sanders also said that graduation debt was a paramount issue among students. He said that a young man in Krymkowski’s class stated that he would owe $50,000 after leaving UVM and that attending graduate school becomes increasingly more difficult with excessive undergraduate debt. The senator said that college students should pay close attention to budget cuts proposed in the House of Representatives. “My concern is that Republicans would address deficit reduction in a very draconian way,” he said. Sanders said that the proposed cuts are hurting citizens who need aid most. He said that this includes not just Pell Grants but planned cuts to funding of Planned Parenthood, the Head Start program and the Social Security Administration. Sanders said that these programs are not the source of our budget woes. “Social Security has not contributed a single nickel to the federal budget deficit,” he said. Sanders said students should pay close attention to the nuclear energy debate in this country, especially in the wake of the Fukushima I plant crisis in Japan. The senator said that the Japanese plant was not only the same size and age of Vermont Yankee but of the same design. The plant, located in Vernon, should be shut down and decommissioned, Sanders said. The state senate voted 26-4 vote against its renewal last year. Last week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission renewed Vermont Yankee’s operating license until 2032, he said. Sanders said students should be engaged because if young people are not actively involved in the political process, lobbyists are involved and their interests may not be the interests of average Americans. “Students in this country should be concerned by this,” he said. “Unless we can turn it around, your generation will face a lower standard of living than your parents for the first time in this country’s history.”