Katie LaPotin & Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Red Alert Politics, August 23, 2013
President Obama may have been on a college bus tour to promote his three proposals for making college more affordable, yet he seemed to forget that his target audience was the students themselves while fielding questions at Binghamton University Friday.
The president spent nearly an hour answering questions from the audience, yet only four of them came from actual students. Moreover, two of the students’ questions were on specific issues irrelevant to the majority of college students out there – admissions benefits for LGBT and international students.
Obama must have realized his mistake near the end, however, as when it came time for him to answer just one more question he made sure it came from a student.
“Alright, I got one last question, and I want to make sure it’s a student,” Obama said, pointing at a young man in the crowd. “Are you a student?”
He may have benefitted from answering more questions from students, too. Lauren, an integrative neuroscience major at Binghamton, was the only person actually able to stump the president, asking Obama if the living-cost of an area could be taken into effect when it comes to calculating financial aid for students.
“You know, why don’t I just say this. I think it’s an important question and I’m going to talk to [Secretary of Education Arne] Duncan about it and find out what kind of research and work we’ve done on that issue to see if we can potentially make a difference,” Obama answered.
Obama did let the audience on a little secret for future town hall meetings, though.
“Here’s a general rule in the presidential town hall: if you want to get called on, wear the President’s face on your shirt,” he said before taking a graduate student’s question on budget cuts to Head Start programs.
Binghamton University, which is part of the State University of New York school system, has about 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Obama stopped by the school Friday because he believes the state has been instrumental in offering students the opportunity to receive their degrees in three years rather than four.
“I’m excited because of the great work that SUNY campuses like Binghamton are doing to keep costs down for hardworking students like so many of you,” Obama said at the town hall. “Chancellor [Nancy] Zimpher is making sure that hundreds of thousands of SUNY students all across the state are getting a world-class higher education but without some of the debt and financial burden that is stopping too many young people from going to college. And that’s what we want for all of our students and all of our families across the country.”
Students, faculty members and community members in attendance at Friday’s town hall were chosen at random by lottery. Fielding complaints from upset students who didn’t win a ticket, the school released a statement that they were merely following the guidelines set up by the White House for the event.