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Yes, a federal shutdown would mean a loss of paychecks, and a halt in city services, a loss of tourist revenue, and a generally embarrassing failure of the government to function. But for some students, it could be worse than that.
It could go on their permanent records.
A handful of college students around D.C. are panicking right now over the prospect of Smithsonian museums closing, because with semesters ending right as the government goes into hibernation, it means they may not be able to get to assignments they’d put off all spring. (Full disclosure: These particular students are friends of mine, which is how I learned of their plight.)
“It’s not even extra credit. It’s a class requirement, but I wanted to wait until it was warm to go. Now I feel like I should’ve gone in January. I need this visit,” says Maya Rhodan, a junior at Howard University.
She was supposed to visit both the Museum of Natural History and the Frederick Douglass Museum in Southeast for her “U.S. History Since 1877” class. Summaries of her visits to the museums are due before class next Tuesday. She hasn’t been to either one yet.
“I can’t deal with this shutdown. Especially since there will be no garbage collection,” says Rhodan. “I’m like… so, the trash is going to pile up… and I can’t do my homework?” says Rhodan. “I feel like a 6-year-old that just found out the tooth fairy isn’t real.”
Rhodan isn’t the only one in her class who’s a little stressed.
“I waited so late because I haven’t had time and I’ve been procrastinating,” says Tahirah Hairston, another junior at Howard. “I’m going to try to visit one today and if not, I guess I’ll try to visit Madame Toussauds. Seriously, I don’t have a plan B.”
This actually seems like the rare case when a college student has a truly plausible reason for not finishing an assignment, rather than a lame excuse. So you might think Rhodan and Hairston would be rushing to their professor to explain. But no one has brought this little conundrum to their professor’s attention.
“Honestly, no one has brought it up because they didn’t know about [the government shutdown],” says Hairston. “If they did know about it, then they didn’t know it would include national parks and museums.”
Which means maybe Howard should add some civics classes to the curriculum next year. In the meantime, if you see a rush of students heading to museums tonight before they close, now you’ll know why.