Letter to the editor: An Open Letter to Our Fellow Students

Rachel Mass

On Thursday, March 12, Ray Paoletta published an opinion piece in which he criticized our coalition for confronting President Beverly Warren about our campus workers’ wages instead of addressing other, supposedly more student-exclusive concerns. This argument is both shortsighted and misinformed. Firstly, it implies that the importance of an issue depends solely on whether or not it affects one personally. As students who care deeply about the university, it is counterproductive to restrict our efforts to one portion of the Kent State family. These workers are an essential part of our campus, and they are struggling. Secondly, it overlooks the direct ways in which campus workers influence our lives as students. We depend on them for fresh meals, a tidy environment, functional plumbing and various other on-campus amenities. The work they do is necessary for the university’s operation. Therefore, it makes sense to defend the workers and to take a stand against the mistreatment they are facing at the hands of the university.

However, our coalition agrees that student debt is a pressing issue today, and we are well aware of the credit cap. In fact, we have been combatting high education costs for years. The Kent State Socialist Collective addressed this issue as early as September 2013, when it hosted Aaron Calafato’s “For Profit” presentation in the Kiva. The one-man show, attended by more than a hundred students and faculty members, addressed the nationwide exploitation of American students. Since then, the KSSC and its members have participated in numerous demonstrations advocating a tuition freeze and the abolition of the credit-hour cap.

For the last three semesters, the Ohio Student Association has tirelessly campaigned to educate and engage students about the issue and to confront the administration about its concerns. For example, this October, OSA teamed up with United Students Against Sweatshops to hold Night of The Walking Debt. Group members donned zombie costumes and roamed the campus, handing out informational sheets to students and inviting them to sign a petition, which proposed a five-year tuition freeze and the removal of the credit cap. These efforts continued well into the spring semester. In February, students from the group attended the Young Invincibles event at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus to encourage state legislators to reinvest in higher education.

Furthermore, the assumption that our efforts to relieve student debt have ceased in the wake of our new campaign is completely unfounded. Just this Monday, March 9, five students from our coalition approached President Beverly Warren after the Faculty Senate meeting with a letter. In the letter, we urged President Warren to announce a five-year tuition freeze at the June 4 meeting, abolish the credit cap, allow a student-elected undergraduate representative on the recently formed Accessibility and Affordability Committee and meet us face-to-face by the end of March to discuss possible solutions for our concerns.

It has to be acknowledged that while students face the ever-growing burden of student loan debt, we are not alone. We are not the only ones harmed by the current crisis of higher education. The very same budget cuts and irresponsible spending that push us further into debt also affect our campus workers. These workers keep the university running, and yet their wages put half of them below the poverty line. Several have even lost their homes in the past year. They are our most natural allies in the fight for educational justice, and we can’t abandon them in their time of need. We don’t need students and workers fighting over the scraps the administration decides to throw at us. We need a student-worker alliance to fight for a university where students get a debt-free education and workers get a fair wage and a good life.

This all being said, we are not doing all that can be done. Our coalition is limited by our numbers as much as by our opposition. We cannot represent the student body on our own and won’t pretend that we can. We need you. We need more students and more organizations to stand with us in supporting our workers and building a better university. You can find us on Facebook at Kent State USAS Local #27 or reach us at our respective Facebook pages. Together we can help write a Kent State story worth reading, and worth fighting for. 

Rachel Mass is a sophomore English major. Contact her at [email protected]. Columnist John Hess also helped contribute to a portion of this letter. Contact him at [email protected]. The United Students Against Sweatshops, Ohio Student Association, Kent State Socialist Collective and Kent State College Democrats contributed to this letter.