What would it be like to be hushed and shooed away by your own elected representative? Earlier this week, a group of student leaders from each of Iowa’s state universities found out firsthand. The students, who were testifying in opposition to proposed budget cuts to higher education, were told to “go home” by Sen. Shawn Hamerlinck, the ranking Republican on Iowa’s Senate Education Appropriation committee.
The students, mostly presidents of their respective student government organizations, were invited for “Open Budget Hearings,” which were arranged to get feedback from Iowans who would be affected by the proposed budget cuts, including a severe cut to higher education that would lead to fewer course offerings, larger class size, and more students unable to afford their college tuitions. After their testimony, Sen. Hamerlinck thanked them condescendingly, then basically told them to butt out of the government’s business. “Spending your time worrying about what we’re doing up here, I don’t want you to do that. Go back home,” he told them.
As a student myself, I find this appalling. Youth does not equate to ignorance. Hamerlinck addressed the students as if they were merely wasting his time, playing congressional make-believe, saying “you probably prepared for [this hearing] for days and you sat there in front of us trying to make sure your remarks were just right.” Hamerlinck has the air of an impatient parent saying, That’s nice, but daddy’s doing grown-up work, so why don’t you go play somewhere else?
These students are young adults, not children, and they represent the student governments of their universities. Even more importantly, they’re constituents. Maybe it’s more than Hamerlinck can handle to truly listen to and take into consideration the opinions of his constituents, but it’s truly unacceptable for him to treat a group of engaged young people with such disrespect and contempt.