Jan 182012
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Job growth concerns took a backseat to issues like Internet censorship, global warming and national security during a recent town hall meeting that was originally advertised as being centered around the economy.

“It says to me that Coloradans have a wide variety of interests,” said Sen. Mark Udall, who held the discussion in the Lory Student Center East Ballroom as part of his statewide tour. “ … I hear this wide range of concerns all over the state.”

Udall opened the forum by speaking briefly about his commitment to helping the nation recover from years of recession. But the eight individuals who were called on to ask questions afterwards focused on other issues.

At least half of the comments made were about the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act, two controversial bills opponents say could be used to censor websites and force some to shut down.

“The public has overwhelmingly opposed this legislation. Enacting this legislation will be detrimental to start up companies and entrepreneurs alike,” said John Fye, a self-employed local technical consultant and audience member.

Udall responded by saying he opposed it.

“That has, if it were to go forward, a real affect on job creation. And I’m convinced that it would chill innovation, it would chill free speech, and it would undermine the cyber security efforts we have underway,” Udall said. “Those all, interestingly enough, are categories that tie into our economy.”

However, according to student body Vice President Rachel Roberson, one issue that didn’t receive enough attention at the forum, was education funding.

“I was a little surprised,” she said. “I thought especially given the venue, education should have been mentioned and given more emphasis than it was.”

Roberson continued, saying those who drove the conversation at the town hall meeting were experienced community members –– not students.

“I’m grateful that we were fortunate enough to have a seasoned U.S. senator come to speak with us. But again, it would have been nice to see more students involved in the conversation,” she said.

During a question and answer session with reporters, however, Udall spoke about the need to ease student financial hardship.

“We can continue to aggressively fund the Pell Grant program, as well as other grant and loan programs. We can fully implement a change in which student loans are generated,” he said.

“ … What we could do most importantly is put policies in place so the economy grows so there are jobs for students. That would go a long way towards making sure that students aren’t burdened with debts that really hamstring the future of our young people.”

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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