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Shutdown hits home at VSU

by Will Lewis


VSU is beginning to feel the effects of the recent Government Shutdown.

“We are dealing with a wave here, so other crests with other problems are still coming,” Dr. Marc Pufong, professor of Political Science, said.

The most immediate impact came with a change to the program in today’s Science Seminar. Dr. Bill Cooke, head of the NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, was scheduled to speak on the Chelyabinsk meteor that was spotted earlier this year. Due to a mass furlough of government employees, Dr. Cooke’s planned trip to VSU was prohibited by NASA. The lecture will now be presented by Dr. Martha Leake, professor of Astronomy.

Other professors are being affected by the shutdown as well.

“I had made plans to attend a grant review panel in Washington DC through the National Science Foundation, but those plans are now in limbo with the shutdown,” Joshua Reece, assistant Biology professor, wrote in an email Wednesday. “This is disruptive to my teaching and research, and potentially limiting to my ability to contribute to and learn from serving on this panel.”

Dr. Bradley Bergstrom, professor of Biology, is unable to continue his collaborations with government biologists, some from the Smithsonian Institution, Department of Agricultural and the United States Geological Survey.

“I needed to contact some of these federal biologists this week, and I am unable to,” Dr. Bergstrom wrote in an email.  “In fact, they have been instructed it’s a violation of federal law to conduct government business–including e-mail–while their funding has been suspended.”

The shutdown began early Tuesday morning after Congress was unable to pass a budget to further fund Federal Government programs.

For the first time in 17 years, “non-essential” government personnel were furloughed, placing over 800,000 government workers on unpaid leave.

A skeleton crew of 1.3 million civilian employees will remain to run “essential” government programs.

Programs pertaining to national security and public safety will be kept in service, but the civilian employees will have their pay suspended until the government restarts.

In a last minute decision, President Obama signed a law that guaranteed that members of the Armed Services will continue to be paid despite the status of the shutdown in an effort to preserve a continued level of national security.

Congress is another group that will be continued to be paid. Their salary is written in to permanent law.

The reason for the government’s failure to pass a budget is the partisan divide between House Democrats and Republicans.

Republican congressmen have attached an addendum to each stopgap measure that would attempt to delay the Affordable Care Act for an additional year, scheduling it to begin Oct. 1, 2014.

Republicans are attempting to play their own game by forcing their hand, Dr. Pufong said.

“If people resolve into fixed positions, the compromise is not to be had,” he said.

If compromise is not reached then the U.S. is in serious danger of defaulting on its loans. The Bipartisan Policy Center projects that the country is on course to break the debt ceiling as early as Oct. 18.

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