By ELIZABETH BASTIAN, STAFF WRITER
This country is going to the dogs. And my research is going right along with it.
For when the Republicans decided that the Affordable Care Act was a worthy enough cause to
shut down the federal government, they disabled all the federally funded websites from NASA to
the US Census Bureau. To be perfectly selfish (and I am going to be), this brings certain aspects
of my projects in various classes to a halt.
Unless you are lucky enough to be awarded a grant you wrote yourself, most undergraduate
students do not have the money to pay for the data necessary to conduct research projects. High-
resolution satellite images from privately funded companies can run upwards of thousands of
dollars. The same goes for data obtained by almost any independent corporation – you want
access, you show them the cash. Sometimes if you offer to provide them a service in analyzing
it, they will give you something in exchange; but this can create a situation that only sets your
As with most college upperclassmen, I am now at the point in my educational career where a
majority of my grades are based on large research projects. They can be group projects, solo
expeditions, presentations, or papers. Regardless of their form, they all require a necessary
ingredient: data. And lots of it. But with the federal government indefinitely furloughing their
workforce, these websites could be down for weeks.
I’m sure there are shady back-door ways to download data, but I’m not about that life. I like my
data the way I like my air travel: cheap and reliable. And free is about as cheap as you can get.
Admittedly, there was a time where I would have rejoiced at this news, using it as an excuse
to read bad romance novels and watch reruns of “It’s Always Sunny.” But I actually like my
projects, and I enjoy working on them. When you have an investment in the procedure and the
outcome, it is frustrating to come upon a roadblock that you literally have no control over.
C’mon, Congress. You have already defunded education to the point where most of us are
thousands of dollars in debt at graduation. You can’t even agree on a set of primary and
secondary educational standards so students can get into college. Now you may not even provide
the scores of us who may be working mimimum wage jobs in the future with health care. And
then you steal one of the few, formerly reliable things in life right out from under us? For shame,
Capitol Hill. For shame.
I am really hoping that our representatives decide to fast forward this little rendition of “West
Side Story” and get to the alternate ending. The one where no one ends up killing themselves and
all the things that were once free become accessible once again.