Students lay out issues the next president should address

Common issues students expect a new president to address are health care, climate change, national debt and imprisonment. Photo courtesy of flickr user Stephen Melkisethian.
Common issues students expect a new president to address are health care, climate change, national debt and imprisonment. Photo courtesy of flickr user Stephen Melkisethian.

Cody Jones
News Staff Writer
cjones7@unca.edu

As the election draws to a close, UNC Asheville students discuss some of their hopes and expectations for the crucial issues they think the next administration needs to focus on.

Improving the health care system overall remains a priority for some.

“My mom is really sick and watching my parents go through trying to pay for everything has been really stressful for them,” said Caroline Boyd, senior psychology student from Charlotte. “Medical care is a big one for me.”

Boyd said she hopes the U.S. will one day enact universal health care, but for the time being the Affordable Care Act should be improved.

“I think the Affordable Care Act has some good things, but I think we should build on what we have and improve the parts that aren’t working,” Boyd said.

Ethan Wright a senior atmospheric science student from Newton agrees with Boyd.

“Now that premiums have recently gone up for people I would like to see some of those issues worked on, but not a complete repeal of Obamacare,” Wright said. “The system is broken and I want to see it fixed, but I want to see it better off for low-income and middle-income families.”

Wright said environmental issues such as climate change need to be addressed soon.

“I think Clinton is for a carbon tax, which I would actually agree with. I compare it to taking out your trash,” Wright said. “We have to start from somewhere and it can’t be done if there are no controls over what we put out. I’m very much against taxing people, but I think you have to pick and choose which issues are alright to tax people for.”

According to the platform on her campaign’s website, Hillary Clinton does not seem to be pushing for a carbon tax.  Discussion of a carbon tax was largely avoided by Clinton during the primaries when then-challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders brought up the issue.

Wright, who said he is fiscally conservative and socially liberal, is also concerned about the national debt.

“Neither one of the politicians have pointed too much to our national debt which is nearly $20 trillion,” Wright said. “I would like to see a plan to reduce that debt. Financial security to me is national security.”

Astrid Tarleton, a sophomore chemistry student from Atlanta, said racial issues have become more prominent during this election and she hopes the next president will work toward meaningful solutions.

“There’s this underlying white supremacy that’s been around since our country was founded,” Tarleton said. “We’ve mostly only had white men in office, so no one is really representing the working class or minorities. I think a lot of people are afraid to address that issue.”

Isabella Jackson, a sophomore women, gender and sexuality studies student from Savannah, said racial problems in the U.S. will not be solved without profound changes.

“Prison and police reform needs to be a total, radical change. The whole history of the current system is based on ideas that certain populations are criminal,” Jackson said. “We’ve painted these false narratives of criminality being inherent in certain categories of people and I think we just need to completely get away from that.”

Jackson said people should only be imprisoned for violent crimes and their time in jail should be for rehabilitation.

“Crimes like theft should not result in the caging of people because the majority of things have to do with economic access and opportunity,” Jackson said. “But we definitely have way too many people in prison and way too many police with weapons on the streets. We’re going to have to radically change that if we ever want a real democracy.”

The incarceration rate in the U.S. is higher than any other country. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, there are more than 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 942 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,283 local jails and 79 Indian Country jails. There are also people incarcerated in military prisons, immigration detention facilities and prisons in the U.S. territories.

The incarceration rate of the U.S. is 693 people per 100,000. Turkmenistan has the second highest rate of 583 people per 100,000.

Jackson said the focus on police shootings of unarmed black men and women within the past couple of years allowed people to better understand the experience of black Americans.

“Technology and social media is starting to let white people into that reality,” Jackson said. “I grew up as a white child in a family of seven and all of my siblings were black and biracial in south Georgia. I’ve always known police kill people who look like my family so I’ve never trusted the police and I think that’s a very common sentiment in the black community.”

Kailey Schmidt, a sophomore environmental science student from Maine, grew up in a different environment. She said she became more aware due to the increased visibility of the problems.

“Especially for where I’m from, growing up I was taught that racism isn’t really a thing anymore and that it’s of the past,” Schmidt said. “But in the last few years it’s becoming more of a prominent issue. Hopefully we’ll take a step in the right direction.”

Mae Hoffman, a sophomore psychology student, said the drug policy in the U.S. predominantly affects black men and she hopes the policy eases during the next administration.

“Our drug policy is ridiculous, especially with marijuana, since it’s a minor thing and it isn’t really dangerous,” Hoffman said. “And it’s targeted toward the black male community, white males are usually let off for those kind of charges.”

According to an analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union, black people are 3.73 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana despite approximately equal usage rates.

Hoffman contrasted the punishment given to nonviolent drug offenders and convicted rapists.

“Smoking or using marijuana is a minor thing that people do for fun and people are going to jail for it, but rapists and abusers are getting off scot-free.”

Hoffman said access to education and health care needs to be quickly addressed as well. She said people sometimes take extreme measures in order to pay for their education and health care.

“It’s so expensive that young girls are putting their lives at risk by prostituting themselves, doing porn, stripping and things like that,” Hoffman said. “It’s fine if you want to do that, there’s nothing wrong with it, but there are a lot of women who are doing that just so they can pay for it, which is ridiculous.”

Hoffman said she has known people who had to resort to illegal activity in order to receive medical supplies.

“Bernie Sanders has been posting a lot on social media about insulin and the EpiPen and how expensive it is for people to get basic things that they need to survive,” Hoffman said. “I used to date a guy who was diabetic. I remember him not being able to afford his insulin and his mom had to do some illegal things to get money to afford his insulin just so he wouldn’t die.”

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