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Dear Senator Cruz

Ted, I just don’t think we’re meant to get along.

I tried, I promise. When you visited the University of Maine on March 4, I decided to attend your rally. I wanted to see who you were without the filter of a news organization or debate moderator. I wanted to learn about your views with no external influence — nothing but you, your words and some pre-rally country music. As such, I entered the Collins Center with my preconceived ideas and political views pushed far down into hiding, in hopes of listening to your messages with an open mind.

We were off to a shaky start, me and you. I can’t say I agree with anything you believe in. However, this ideological chasm is not the point of this letter. Instead, I want to talk about your opinions about college students. There were several protesters and outspoken audience members who attended your rally and heckled you. You called them out by telling them to “wait until they’re out in the real world.” You stated that college students “don’t understand there’s no such thing as a free lunch” and insinuated that we do not work and all just want free stuff. These statements really struck a nerve.

I do think the heckling was inappropriate. Everyone should have understood that this was your rally and you were free to present your views as you wished. However, your response and views regarding college students are incredibly misguided.

It’s asinine and insulting to even suggest that college students don’t work and rely solely on handouts or their parents’ money. Let me tell you, Ted: I am a first-year, full-time student who works two jobs (three, if you count my weekly column) at a total of 25 hours a week. My roommate is also a full-time student and works in a lab as a freshman. I have heard countless stories of UMaine students balancing work and school and doing it very well. Beyond this spectrum of local campus anecdotes, there are millions of American students working while in college.

A study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce shared that, as of 2012, 62 percent of undergraduates work jobs while in school. Forty percent of all undergraduates work 30 or more hours a week, with a quarter of all undergraduates simultaneously working full-time and attending school full-time. We aren’t in the late ’80s (the time when you attended college) anymore, as college costs have doubled since then. There are students with children, students with no parents, students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds and just average, middle-class college students who work endlessly to put themselves through school.

This is not only anecdotal — it is statistically shown. This is the new normal, and as such, it’s unfair to paint us all with a broad brush of laziness. So why must you belittle the work ethic of students?

It seemed silly to me to go to a college campus and hope to rally support by insulting a key demographic. It is safe to say that it wasn’t your strongest public relations move. As I recover from yet another day of classes followed by a seven-hour work shift, I hope you’re able to see my point. I hope you’re able to open your eyes and see college students for who they are: a hard-working group of people, seeking opportunities and not handouts.

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