Students talk with governor hopefuls

by Heather L. Mueller

Students pressed gubernatorial candidates Peter Hutchinson and Maureen Reed on education and im migration at a forum Tuesday at the Black Student Union in Coffman Union.

Both independence Party candidates – Reed, who is running for lieutenant governor, and Hutchinson – discussed campaign issues and answered students’ questions over pizza.

During the loosely-regulated question and answer session, Reed asked the audience what issues were most important. Education, immigration, health care and transportation were at the top of the list.

“In terms of immigration laws and tuition rates, I think it affects more of the black students Ö versus other students,” Reed said. “But I think this is an issue that everybody is very interested in. It has a significant role in our lives.”

Mekdes Mekuria, president of the Black Student Union, said the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence and the Black Student Union teamed up to host the discussion because it’s important for students to know where the candidates stand on the issues.

Mekuria said immigrants have limited access to higher education grants, scholarships and even loans.

“I think everything changed after 9/11 in terms of students being able to apply for grants or scholarships,” she said. “Now you have to be an actual citizen for the most part.”

Immigrant students deserve equal access to higher education finance options and aid, she said.

Hutchinson said immigration is a big issue for him.

“All of the families I know that come to Minnesota are here because they want to put down roots, they want the economic opportunity and they want a chance to become a part of this community and (legislators are) standing in their way,” he said.

Hutchinson said the state needs to pass the Dream Act to allow Minnesota immigrants who are high school graduates to pay in-state college tuition rates.

For Reed, an issue that affects the success of all Minnesotans is education.

“We need to double the number of Minnesota students that get college degrees,” Reed said.

The University needs to be held accountable for the higher-education gap apparent in graduation rates among students of diverse backgrounds, she said.

Reed was on the University’s Board of Regents for eight years, until 2005, and said the University did not do enough for General College students.

“The likelihood that a student who entered the General College graduated in six years was 18 percent. I think that’s an outrage,” she said. “We need to double the amount of needs-based educational funding.”

Cinema and media culture sophomore Asmerom “Isaac Kesete” Woldegebreal, who attended the event, said students are too individualistic and don’t take the time to consider how the issues personally affect them.

“They forget about simple things like democracy and voting and making people aware of voting,” he said.

More than just issues, Woldegebreal is looking for a complete person in a candidate.

“I just want to see a candidate who really knows what he’s talking about, who’s a good human being and who won’t be corrupted by money and other political issues,” Woldegebreal said.

Trumanue Lindsey Jr., principal office and administrative specialist in the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence, said he wants to help students get involved in politics.

“People will say or express their feelings about what needs to be changed, but nobody really wants to step up and make the initiative,” he said.

Lindsey said students should be provided with more information about candidates before making decisions based solely on party lines.

Lindsey and Mekuria said the groups have discussed future meetings with other candidates.