Hooya! Rowdy

by Brian Close

More than 500 spectators and revelers cheered and shouted the name of freshly inaugurated Gov. Jesse Ventura as he took the podium at Coffman Union’s Great Hall on Tuesday afternoon.
Ventura, who became the state’s 38th governor Monday, arrived half an hour late to the event, which included food and swing music from local band Trailer Trash. Judging from the boisterous cheers, the throng of students forgave his tardiness.
Ventura, who beat out the Democratic-Farmer-Labor and Republican favorites, is the first Reform Party governor in the nation.
Much to the interest of students in attendance, Ventura addressed his stance on higher education funding, which he said has been criticized since his campaign.
Ventura’s comments suggested that he thought if students were smart enough to make it to college, they should be smart enough to find a way to pay for their education.
“That’s called practical,” he said. “That’s called street smarts. But I do support higher education very strongly.”
In a question-and-answer session after his speech, he added that his goal is to hold the line on tuition while ensuring that loans and grants are available. But, he said, there are many ways to alleviate the costs of school, including taking post-secondary classes and living at home.
Ventura praised University President Mark Yudof for making the University one of the “greatest universities in the whole world.”
He said the young people of the state, who he credits with helping elect him, admire his honesty and perhaps his rebelliousness.
“I’m 47 now, but mentally I’m about 21,” he said. Like many of his comments, the remark drew laughs and applause from the crowd.
But some in the audience expressed concerns about Ventura’s plans, especially his comments on financial aid.
“I don’t see how it would be possible, without any support from my family, to get through school in a reasonable period of time,” said Jennifer Hockenberry, a sophomore in the College of Biological Sciences.
After the speech, Yudof said Ventura has been very clear about financial aid both in personal conversations and at Monday’s speech. Yudof said Ventura is asking students to earn at least part of their way through school.
“In my judgement, Jesse Ventura is very sensitive to students’ financial needs for higher education,” he said. “But you have to meet him halfway.”
Lt. Gov. Mae Schunk also spoke about the history of her involvement with the campaign. She said Ventura was looking for a teammate who was strong in education, and that she fit the bill, with her more than 36 years as an educator.
When her husband told her about Ventura’s wrestling past, she said, her initial reaction was apprehensive.
“He said he was more of the evil persona, and he had this pink boa, and this long hair, and these tight shorts, and these boots that laced up high, and I said ‘Oh no!'”
Eventually she met Ventura, who she said impressed her with his interest in young kids.
Schunk talked of supporting herself through college, by working and even taking a semester off to raise more funds.
“Today you have the benefit of grants and scholarships,” she said. “But I know it takes a lot.”