Town Hall meeting held on campus focused on cancellation of student debt

Town Hall meeting held on campus focused on cancellation of student debt

Photo Credits: Markus Kaeppeli / Aggie. Organizers in labor unions, student organizations, and community groups hold a town hall at the UC Davis Art Annex to bring awareness about student debt on October 9, 2019.

Davis City Hall to hear on issues concerning student debt

A town hall meeting held on Oct. 9 revolved around a discussion of potential strategies to cancel student debt. The event, held in the Art Annex at UC Davis, was open to Davis community members and groups led by California for Student Debt Cancellation — a coalition comprised of student organizations, labor unions and other community groups.  

The meeting, which began at 7 p.m. and ended at 8:30 p.m., featured various speakers discussing potential ways to tangibly solve problems concerning debt. Dillon Horton, a 2017 UC Davis alumni, spoke about his campaign platform to run for Davis City Council: Horton hopes to tackle student debt by means of addressing housing issues and economics. As a former student, Horton tied in his own experience in seeing gaps with student accessibility that stem from debt.  

“We haven’t had a student or recent graduate on the city council for a decade, and we have never had an African-American man on the city council,” Horton said. “I spent most of my time in student government on student accessibility issues. I’m running right now for the city council — mostly focused on the housing crisis and economic development. Those issues are inextricably linked to student debt.” 

Morganne Sara, a graduate student in the anthropology department at UC Davis, discussed the large impact student debt currently has on millions of individuals.

“Total student debt right now is at around $1.6 trillion [for] 45 million people,” Sara said. “48% of our students will graduate with debt. Knowing that my students will be graduating with this amount of debt makes me anxious and angry.” 

Katie Rodger, president of the University Council-AFT Union, spoke about her experience with the system of loans and student debt, according to a video posted on Facebook. Rodger initially believed she could handle her debt, but interest began piling on top of what she owed. She now consistently has to keep paying off her loans. 

“To the best of my ability, I determined that I could shoulder the burden of my debt,” Rodger said. “As a middle-class graduate student, I didn’t have the means to finish my degree without those loans. It wasn’t a question of negligence or responsibility — it was simply reality.” 

Sara asked rhetorical questions on how students lack freedom when they owe student debt, which can follow them for the rest of their lives.

 “Let me ask you this — is it really freedom if you chose not to start a family because of student debt?” Sara asked. “I don’t think so. Is it really freedom that you can’t rent an apartment because you have student debt? I don’t think so… I don’t think that’s freedom.”

This meeting generated pressure for solutions — the town hall was just the beginning of conversations concerning student debt. An additional town hall meeting will be held on Oct. 21 at 3 p.m. at Davis City Hall will bring the movement to the consideration of local leaders.

Written by: Taylor Martinez — city@theaggie.org