The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Election News

October 13, 2006

Protesters take issue with Republican policies

Higher education policies, connection to Foley scandal highlight concerns

MANKATO — While congressmen met privately Thursday with the College Republicans upstairs, College Democrats waved placards and passed out protest pamphlets downstairs.

A dozen or so students, lined up in the hallway of Minnesota State University’s Centennial Student Union, held up signs that read “Family Values” and “Students for Honest Government” and “Protect your children first, reputations second.” Others passed out leaflets decrying the large tuition increases that have hit college students during the last six years.

In general, the group is simply anti-Republican for all the predictable reasons of an election season. But this particular gathering had specific reasons to be upset with the Republican gathering upstairs:

They believe Republican policies on higher education have strapped students with more debt than any previous generation of students. They think Gil Gutknecht (one of the congressmen upstairs, and the man who represents them in Washington) is out of touch with young people. And they’re not happy at all with the actions of the fellow who accompanied Gutknecht — Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio — whose name has been somewhat prominent in the scandal surrounding Mark Foley. (Foley is the representative from Florida who allegedly sent sexually explicit e-mails to male pages working on Capitol Hill.)

“What (Boehner) represents to a lot of us is the problem with the Republicans in power,” said senior Colin Laughlin, a political science major from South Dakota.

Helping the College Democrats was Alex Cutler, a member of the liberal activist group Stand Up Now! Tuition and debt, Cutler says, are his organization’s main issues.

“Seventeen percent of MnSCU students have had to drop out for at least one semester in order to pay for their continuing education,” he said.

Allie Ciriacy, a junior, started college right after high school. But because of high tuition costs, she joined the Army to earn money for college.

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