Post-government shutdown, students and professors access government academic resources again

Lizzie Jespersen

Though the government shutdown ended late Wednesday night, the 16 days it lasted were long enough to disrupt UT academic life for professors and students.

The government shutdown resulted in the temporary closure of all government-run programs, including many national database websites and federally funded archives. For some classes and research initiatives reliant on the information housed by these resources, losing access meant rethinking half-finished projects.

This was the case for chemistry sophomore Samantha Wendt, who was doing research in the LBJ Library when staff announced that the library, which is federally funded, would be closing due to the government shutdown. Though she was halfway through with her project at the time, she had to stop and change to a different topic because she did not have enough material to finish. In her case, the information she needed could not be found online.

“It put me behind,” Wendt said. “I had to change up a couple things, and essentially when I turned it in both me and my professor knew this wasn’t the best it could have been. It’s a shame I couldn’t use what the University has to offer us.”

Lisa Gulesserian, an English graduate student and Wendt’s research TA, said she felt the impact of the government shutdown on
academic work.

“Some [students] had to completely rethink their projects because they were not able to access their materials without physically visiting the library,” Gulesserian said. “It was an extremely stressful situation for our students, one I wouldn’t wish on any researcher.”

Mina Ghobrial, a sociology and public relations senior, said he felt the consequences of procrastination when the government census website shut down the day before his paper, an examination of specific census data between countries, was due.

“She gave us alternative websites we could use, but then the difficulty was you had to navigate more and do more research,” Ghobrial said. “Something that could have taken me five minutes took an hour or much longer.”

Shannon Cavanagh, a sociology associate professor, said professors should not have to incorporate alternative measures into syllabi that rely on access to government databases.

“We shouldn’t have to be anticipating the demise of the government,” Cavanagh said. “Shutting down the government should never be anything that has to be incorporated into class. This is an example of the reach of the shutdown and how it can affect something seemingly so removed from the politics of the U.S.”