Grace Worwa – Opinion Columnist
Gusties are passionate about racial justice. The past few weeks there has been a rumor going around about the chemistry department and implicit bias training. There is more to the story than what is being spread student to student. However, given the gravity of this topic and the urgent need expressed by students to address issues of inequity not just on-campus, this issue deserves a down-to-earth, informed discussion about what is possible and what should be done.
Gusties, as I’m writing this, Joe Biden will officially have been President Biden for over ten days. Now, as Inauguration Day came and went, we college students have likely just continued on with our daily lives, stressing about the start of classes and getting resettled on-campus. Most of us probably haven’t felt any significant changes since Biden entered the Oval Office, and some of us may even be disgruntled by that fact. After all, do you see your first ever stimulus check sitting in your mailbox? Not me.
So, in essence, President Biden’s first ten days have not had much effect on college students, right?
According to NBC News, Biden’s first ten days saw a total of 45 executive orders, many of which have surprising implications for college students. Although we have not yet been impacted in very visible ways, his actions have given us hope for the future regarding issues that do affect us.
For instance, take student loan forgiveness—the issue that just about every college student is likely to cheer for, no matter their political sympathies.
On Day 1, President Biden extended the freeze on student loan payments to grant debtors some relief during the pandemic. Of course, this does not directly affect current college students, but it does show that we’re on Biden’s mind. It shows he hasn’t forgotten about us now that he’s president and that all his promises about addressing the student debt crisis weren’t a bunch of campaign fluff; he might actually follow through on them.
For me personally, this would make a huge difference in my future. According to BestColleges, the President’s proposed plan for student debt includes improving the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program so that graduates working at schools, for the government, or for a nonprofit would receive “$10,000 of undergraduate or graduate student debt relief for every year of national or community service, up to five years.” As someone who may become a prosecutor one day, I would eagerly welcome this policy because let me tell you, law school debt is no joke.
In addition to student debt, Biden’s first ten days have also given reason for hope and inspiration on another issue popular among college students: climate change.
The President’s initial measures on the environment have been immediate and purposeful. Just on Day 1, he rejoined the Paris Climate Accord, revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, and paused oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, among other things. On Day 8, he officially initiated his plan to fight climate change, establishing the Office of Domestic Climate Policy and a national climate task force and directing federal agencies to buy American-made, zero-emissions vehicles.
For environmental concernists like Junior Arianna Frederickson, these actions pose great promise for the future.
“I think rejoining the Paris Climate Accord as well as making a plan to combat the speed of climate change makes me hopeful for an environmentally clean and healthy future. Having these plans in place and a course for the future doesn’t mean we don’t need to worry about climate change anymore, but it gives me as a college student the motivation to make sure these plans are being carried out and that the conversation doesn’t stop here,” Frederickson said.
Of course, we also can’t forget the issue that is at the forefront of everyone’s mind: COVID-19. Biden’s first ten days are cause for hope that the pandemic will be effectively handled. Within just his first six days, the President created the White House position of COVID-19 Response Coordinator to oversee the distribution of vaccines, tests, and other supplies. He also ordered mask-wearing on federal property and on all public transportation, and he reinstated travel restrictions on non-U.S. citizens coming from variant-infected countries such as Brazil, South Africa, and much of Europe.
President Biden’s actions thus far on COVID-19 show that he intends to take serious and proactive measures to control and diminish the spread of the virus. This gives college students hope that things will soon be back to normal and that some of us will be able to salvage at least part of our college experience.
And our hope for the future is not limited to just what Biden might do; the start of his presidency has persuaded some students into believing that even greater change is on the horizon.
“In the future, I hope to see further progressive views become normal in the U.S. Perhaps not by Biden, but by people who were inspired by Biden’s policies and actions,” Sophomore Patrick Harrison said.
Lastly, Joe Biden’s presidency has given many college students one additional benefit, even more so than hope for the future.
Relief. Sweet, beautiful relief.
“I think that the most prominent feeling these past ten days has been that of relief. I’m relieved that a proper vaccine distribution program is finally occurring, that I no longer need to worry about price hikes on products brought on by trade wars, and that discord between political wings is focused on as a legitimate issue rather than encouraged,” Harrison said.
After ten days of presidential action, us college students may not have seen any tangible effects, but many of us have felt the very real impact of hope and relief, and with luck, that will translate into visible effects in the near future.