Walking debt infects Kent State

Cheyenne Perry

The Ohio Student Association painted students to look like zombies to raise awareness of the growing student debt problem and raising minimum wage Thursday evening at Risman Plaza.

OSA’s Night of The Walking Debt, a reference to the popular TV show “The Walking Dead,” took place in the Student Center, with make-up available on the third floor for anyone who wanted to become a member of the living dead.

The zombies roamed the Student Center from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., urging students to take action against student debt and address raising the minimum wage by voting and signing the petition.

Senior psychology major Ryan Kreaps said activists could sometimes seem aggressive, so the Walking Debt was a more fun way to raise awareness for their cause.

“It’s fun because it’s Halloween, and you get to dress up like a zombie,” Kreaps said.

The Walking Debt featured pale student zombies with cuts, gashes and bloody wounds who couldn’t speak clearly between grunts and mumbles but could “infect” others by handing them a sickly green slip of paper.

The paper was symbolic of the spread of the disease of student debt. The paper outlined three steps to “cure the infection.” First, the student went to the OSA table near the bank. Then they signed a petition and finally grabbed a voter guide to the upcoming November election.

Kreaps, who was manning the table, explained that the petition was for students seeking to end fees for taking over 16 credit hours, to freeze tuition fees, room and board for five years and to push the administration to make a five-year plan to make Kent State a debt-free campus.

“It takes 60 hours of minimum wage work to pay for one credit hour,” Kreaps said. “Since the ’60s and ’70s student school costs have risen exponentially, while minimum wage, with inflation taken into account, has stayed the same.”

Kreaps said most students work minimum wage jobs, so the issues of minimum wage and student debt go hand in hand.

Carly Nelson, a sophomore teaching English as a second language major and zombie, said both issues are really important to her.

“I think it’s really important, student debt wise to that everybody be able to go to school,” Nelson said. “Education is such an important thing and to think that some people can’t do that because they’re concerned about debt is really upsetting.”

Brianna Foraker, a graduate education major and make-up artist to the living dead, said dressing up like zombies helps get that point across in a silly way.

“Obviously, we look pretty scary and pretty creepy,” Foraker said. “In a way it almost makes the idea that (student debt) is a serious and scary thing a little more fun, especially since it’s Halloween anyway. It fits the mood. So I think people will respond positively.”

Foraker said the issue of living wages and student debt is serious to her, too, though.

“As a student it affects all of us,” Foraker said. “This is something that our generation is disproportionally effected with and it’s something that we’ll be dealing with for the rest of our lives. It’s something that the people who are running our colleges aren’t giving us any help with and so I think it’s going to take a movement of students coming out together.”

Contact Cheyenne Perry at [email protected].