Letters: Gun violence, student loans and more


A note about gun violence 

In my sophomore year of high school, there was a school shooting at Freeman High School, in Spokane, Washington, just a couple miles south of my house. We hid under desks and told our moms we loved them, as it was unconfirmed whether or not Lewis and Clark High School was the next target. Frantically I texted everyone I knew who went to Freeman, or who had close friends there. The next week was spent in a community-wide depression and vigil attendance. In my junior year of high school, an anonymous account threatened rape — calling out girls by name, and how he would harm them described in unsettling detail — and a shooting of my high school. In my senior year of high school, the person behind the account was arrested and released on bail (three times in total) and would do the same thing each time.  

Now in my freshman year of college, I watched the place I am beginning to call home get torn to shreds by another senseless act of violence. I heard the sirens from my apartment. I saw the helicopters and police from all over the state drive on the road I take every day. I was at that King Soopers on Table Mesa at 10 p.m. the previous night. I have the privilege of saying I chose to go grocery shopping on March 21 instead of March 22. But not everyone does. No one knows where, who or what is next. It is not the first act of violence of this week, it is not the first for Colorado, it is not the first of the year, it is not the first I have personally experienced as an 18-year-old. And unless something changes, it will not be the last.  

We must change this. We cannot live like this. How much more needs to happen before you are mad too? How much more needs to happen before there is policy, reform and change? Ask these questions to yourself, your family and your representatives. I am an 18-year-old and I have multiple personal experiences with gun violence. I am just one (young) person — imagine everyone you know and their personal experiences. I pine for a time in America we do not have to read about mass shootings in the news, and you should too. Check up on your friends, and advocate for change. Now.  

Erin Miller/CU Boulder student 

Against Asian-American blame

Even if the recent shootings of Asian-Americans in Atlanta were not racially motivated, there is a serious problem with violence towards and harassment of that part of our population in the last year. And it’s not just violence — economically Asian-America has been in decline, more so than the general population (they went from having an unemployment rate roughly the same as that of white people, to, according to Pew Research, having one in May 2020 that was more than 1.5 times the white one).

This hostile environment is largely the product of Donald Trump’s insistence on blaming China for COVID-19. He insists on calling it the China virus, the Wuhan Virus or the “Kung Flu.” A lot of Trump supporters probably would say that objecting to use of that last one is evidence that one doesn’t have a sense of humor. But it’s very offensive. It goes further than calling it the China virus. It implies that there’s is something culturally Chinese about the virus. Going back to the less offensive terms, I don’t think anyone called “Mad Cow Disease” the “English disease” (I don’t think that even Irish republicans called it that).

 Some people who call it “Kung Flu” might say that the absolutely serious nature of this public health emergency justifies the hostility towards Asian-Americans, but it’s the opposite. I’m sure it’s very upsetting for Asian-Americans to think about how so many Americans blame part of their community for COVID-19 deaths.

Tom Shelley/internet

Private student loan protections 

 As a student that faces barriers within the education system, I have found myself struggling with student loan debt. Being a full-time student, I was forced to work 35 to 40 hours a week to be able to save enough money to not only pay off debt but to also live in Colorado. At this point, it feels like I am drowning in work, going in endless circles to pay off my debt. My parents are both immigrants and are considered low-income. Because of this, I had to become financially independent at a young age. That being said, the weight of student loans only intensifies my family’s circumstances. With few protections in place, the student loan industry is taking advantage of our financial stress. 

Student loan debt is something that affects my friends and I tremendously. For example, in Colorado, over 743,000 people have student loan debt, with an average debt burden of more than $38,000. Coloradans carry $28.6 billion in student debt and borrowers currently owe $9.1 billion in private student loan debt. 

A bill that would create protections for private student loan borrowers has been introduced into the Colorado state legislature. The Student Loan Equity Act would protect private student loan borrowers that face exploitation and injustices from the predatory private student loan industry. As tuition and the cost of living both increase, living in Colorado becomes more and more difficult. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by the student debt crisis due to a history of systemic and institutional oppression. This industry uses lending and servicing practices that take advantage of BIPOC and lower income communities; this bill would help to mitigate this exploitation.

 The private student loan industry lacks both transparency and equity, resulting in more economic hardship for my family and me, as well as other people in my community that have similar experiences. In order to create positive change within our education system, we must start with the financial burdens and stress that private student loans put on young adults, particularly those disproportionately affecting low-income communities.

Adi Sadeh/CU Boulder student

Financial assurances for orphaned and abandoned wells

Colorado taxpayers face a major financial liability on behalf of oil and gas companies in our state. At present, our state only has financial assurances for 2 percent of the cost of plugging and reclaiming oil and gas production sites. We stand at a point of opportunity to strengthen regulations through an upcoming legislative process on orphaned and abandoned wells in Colorado. 

The COVID-19 pandemic caused bankruptcies and worker layoffs for oil and gas companies across Colorado. As a result, companies have begun abandoning their wells and leaving taxpayers with the burden of paying for the capping and closures of these sites.

The state of Colorado currently has over $7 billion in unfunded liable wells. With only 2 percent of these costs accounted for in bonds, Colorado taxpayers are left with billions of dollars in costs that oil and gas companies are not liable to pay. 

It is both morally unacceptable and completely unnecessary for the state of Colorado to put this burden on taxpayers. Far more conservative states, such as North Dakota, have stronger bonding requirements than Colorado. Why isn’t Colorado protecting its citizens from the downfalls of this industry like North Dakota is?

The COGCC (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) is beginning its 700 Series rulemaking process to review and update its financial assurances program. Stronger regulations must be enacted that eliminate blanket bonds and require single well bonding at a rate that aligns with the true cost of closing and remediating these wells.

Take action to ensure the citizens of Colorado are not held accountable for these liable wells. Write and call the COGCC (303-894-2100) to urge them to enact stronger bonding requirements for oil and gas drilling in Colorado. Also, participate in the public comment period for the COGCC starting March 31. 

Kieran White with 350 Colorado/Boulder

Follow up

Thanks for the clear picture of the difficult financial situation college students and graduates are facing (RE: “It’s not my proclivity for avocado toast,” Guest Column, March 18.) No wonder many young people have decided college (debt) isn’t worth the effort. The recently passed American Relief plan provides a temporary way to deal with the hurdle of college debt, but more needs to be done. Like the rent and hunger relief, the tax credit increases that cut poverty, and the funding for global health (less than one percent), this college debt crisis relief needs to be just a start. This beginning of the road to equity can continue, if we the people speak up to our members of Congress and ask for it. Be sure to thank them for this start and request it boldly continues. Then follow-up, follow-up, follow-up…

Willie Dickerson/Snohomish, Washington