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The Debt Advocates

Campus | December 9, 2013

The lives of students seem to be consumed by  debt. From student loans to money borrowed for a weekend out, it seems students always owe something to someone. Amidst all this, it is often easy to forget the alarmingly heavy federal debt that has crippled the nation’s economy. Recently, the federal debt has become even more important, from the sixteen-day government shutdown in October to the frequent news coverage of the new fiscal plan. Regardless, it seems that this ever-growing problem sometimes flies under the radar at Tufts, especially compared to the many social and political issues discussed on campus. However, a new group on Tufts’ campus, Up to Tufts, has made it their mission to inform Tufts students about the long-term federal debt.

Up to Tufts is one of 24 local chapters of the nationwide organization Up to Us. Each chapter is dedicated to raising awareness and creating a dialogue on campus about federal debt with a nonpartisan, apolitical perspective. Up to Us also has a competitive edge, as each chapter competes to raise the most awareness among its respective student population. Each chapter is given a stipend of money from the organization and is judged on its ability to use its money and time to best inform the student population as a whole.

Up to Tufts was founded by Tufts seniors Jake McCauley and Josh Youner. After spending countless shifts at the Rez discussing the state of the economy and exchanging ideas, they jumped at the opportunity to get involved in something they believed in so strongly. They both felt that long-term federal debt is “a topic that isn’t frequently seen on campus but the bigger part of the whole issue,” and they saw the importance of spreading the message of this issue. Advised by Professor McHugh of the Economics Department, McCauley and Youner set out to put Up to Tufts together, eventually bringing together a group of six extraordinarily passionate students. After being approved in September of this year, the group wasted no time in beginning to plan a campaign for next semester.

The group’s campaign is to take place in late January and will last about five weeks. Workshops have been planned for the campaign and speakers will come to Tufts to discuss the issues at hand about long-term federal debt. Up to Tufts will not only create social awareness, but also foster an environment in which students can discuss the issues and even provide feedback. Though Tufts is a considerably smaller school than some competing larger state schools, Youner believes that Tufts is “small enough where people can come together but big enough where people will actually do something about it.” Through educational workshops, speakers, and social events, Up to Tufts hopes to spread awareness about the federal debt throughout Tufts campus.

In fact, something that Up to Tufts emphasizes is creating awareness and debate on campus. According to McCauley, “the idea is to educate our generation. We have the power to do something about it, whether it’s meeting with senators or just discussing the issues.” A campus as politically and socially vibrant as Tufts has all the means necessary to make a campaign like Up to Tufts immensely successful. With ideas of active citizenship playing such a big role in the education of a Tufts student, Up to Tufts could prove to be an efficient way to become involved in the community and in society as a whole. Youner comments, “My vision for the campaign is to really engage people who normally would not be engaged in this issue—people who aren’t political science or economics majors.” A main goal of the campaign, then, is to create dialogue among all the different students of Tufts. Up to Tufts aims to create an open forum in which students can bring forth thoughts and ideas, and the nonpartisan, apolitical standpoint of the group is especially important for this. Rather than getting caught up in the issues of party politics, Up to Tufts will create an atmosphere that encourages open discussions.

The issue of federal debt is an immensely important issue that calls for awareness. Youner says, “Debt is the issue that brings all the other smaller issues together. It bridges the gap between economics and public policy.” It affects people from every class and every walk of life. According to Youner, “The federal debt is in the trillion dollar range. No matter where you are in the economic range, it’ll affect you. As students who are about to enter workforce, we are especially affected.” For example, according to McCauley, not only is the debt in the GDP important to our nation’s government, but also to our everyday lives because it’s something we’ll be dealing with and paying off for the rest of our lives. Debt is a wide-ranging issue, and it permeates all aspects of life. Therefore, it is immensely important, now more than ever, to be aware of these issues.

The six founding members of Up to Tufts have been hard at work planning this debt awareness campaign. Though a relatively small group, they are always looking for new members who share their goals and are interested in the issues. Up to Tufts aims to provide people with the basic information they need to be informed citizens, as well as to make them aware of how the federal debt affects their lives. “We hope to educate and inform, but in that, make it a fun process. We want it to be something that students want to participate in and learn more about,” McCauley asserts. With enough support, Up to Tufts is also hoping to put together a petition to send to government representatives as a call for action from Tufts students. With more awareness of the issues, Up to Tufts can initiate the dialogue to promote real change.