However, he stayed clear of the controversy over hydrofracking, an especially hot topic in the Southern Tier region, considered a likely target of the gas industry if the Cuomo administration in Albany decides to open up the state to high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing for gas trapped under layers of shale.
A graduate of Harvard Law School, Obama made a bit of news on a surprising front when he opined in response to one question that he believes three-year law school programs could be consolidated into two years.
Before making that declaration, he quipped: “This is probably controversial to say, but, what the heck, I’m in my second term, so I can say it.”
As for his reasoning, he said, “In the first two years, young people are learning in the classroom. The third year, they’d be better off clerking or practicing in a firm even if they weren’t getting paid that much, but that step alone would reduce the costs for the student.”
In the main theme of his speech, Obama called for the creation of a national rating system of colleges, with attention to efforts to rein in student debt and tuition amounts. Federal aid to colleges would be based on the scores to encourage colleges to make education more affordable, he suggested.
The presidential motorcade was greeted by demonstrators with chants of “no fracking way.” The crowd of several hundred people was orderly but loud.
Kelly Branigan of Middlefield, who said she had also protested at Obama’s speech in Syracuse one night earlier, said she suspects Obama has been supportive of fracking because of what she called bad advice from advisers who take their cues from the gas industry.
“Would he move his family next to a compressor station or a gas pad?” she asked, contending the casings used in drilling are all doomed to fail at some point.