Auburn University: Drowning in Student Loan Debt Dunk Booth

YAL of Auburn University held an activist project for outstanding student loan debt on September fifth and sixth. The dunk booth project was the perfect mix of fun and intellectualism for apathetic students to become involved!

We ordered a dunk booth from a local company, put up an “America” themed backdrop, ordered a custom YAL banner to hook on the booth, and put a volunteer wearing a cap and gown in the seat. The theme is rather simple: Drowning in student loan debt. 

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Getting this beast of a project onto the Concourse of the campus was no easy task. We were up against numerous barriers-to-entry that almost ceased the project entirely. The major obstacles were financial, bureaucratic, weather, supplies, and availability of fellow activists. 

Luckily for us, we had help from many different people and organizations. The financial and supplies burdens were our main hurdles. Shane McGonigal and the Leadership Institute (LI) came through for us just in time with an activism grant that covered almost the entire expense of the dunk booth. The activism grant from LI also came with information pamphlets and a selection of 25 books (such as The Law by Frederich Bastiat, End the Fed by Ron Paul, The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek, and many more) to hand out as prizes. LI also sent down a representative, Cuylor Reeves, to monitor and volunteer for the event.

Reeves turned out to be quite a necessary asset for the completion of this project- his charisma for the event attracted many students and kept the spirits of our volunteers on the high end, he took photos and videos for us so we could focus on the booth, he purchased around $30 worth of candy to hand out to those who didn’t want our books, and most importantly, he drove me to my house to pick up all of our supplies we needed for our booth, as I had to arrive on campus 4 hours before the start of our event in order to avoid a tripping hazard with the hose.

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Above, Cuylor Reeves and Michael Boroden convincing the blood donation’s mascot to dunk our dunkee, Rayven. 

Another organization who made the success of this project possible was the grand organization of Students for Liberty. They generously sent us hundreds of books for us to give to our own members and to pass out at the events we are planning to hold throughout the year. 

Along with a few other organizations, our collection of materials had become a force to be reckoned with (because it will fill up your house with boxes).

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Above, this isn’t even half of the supplies we have.

The next hurdle we had to leap over was the ever expanding bureaucratic red tape that managed to adhere itself to every nook and cranny of the university. We had to apply for a permit to table on the concourse, then apply for a permit to use the universities water source, then pay for the liability insurance for the university ($100.10) to relieve them of responsibility for those who are hurt, and then, as a double measure, we were required to get those who were being dunked in the booth to sign and initial a waiver relieving the university of all responsibilities.

Most of the bureaucracy was simple enough to complete, but the liability insurance was a piece of tape we almost didn’t notice. We were 15 hours away from the setup time of the dunk booth, and this form was enough to completely halt the event. If we didn’t purchase the insurance and get a form documenting the insurance in the correct format exactly, then all of the event would have been rejected. Any misspellings or forgotten words would have made the form invalid, and would have canceled the event. Luckily enough, the owner of Clownin’ Around Amusement Rentals was able to push the purchase through his insurer same-day, and pushed on them to provide him with the form soon after the purchase.

The next morning, I arrived on campus at 5:45 AM Central Time in order to meet with the Clownin’ Around representative so we could have the dunk booth completely set up by 7:00 AM. The set up was brisk and simple- we just had to wait on the water tank to fill. We were completely ready when 10:00 AM came around.

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We spent those two days working hard to recruit new members to the liberty movement while simultaneously showing how fun it can be to live a life of liberty. There was often a look of surprise on the students who passed us by when they heard us chanting “It’s free! Unlimited retries! Free candy! Even a free book if you want one!” Many would ask if they had to pay to play, but were happy to find it was indeed free. Fun really is the best method for recruitment. I don’t have to say much, as this photo says enough:

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The youth on campus had enjoyed our project. This project was difficult, and will probably end up as the most difficult one we will do this (even though we will still try to top it), but it was all worth it. Everyone had a great time, and we collected over 60 new names to add to our mailing list!

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And we also were lucky enough to get the opportunity to reach students with information about the futility of student loans and their link to indentured servitude, and we got to show them a little of what it is like to drown in student loan debt:

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A very special thanks from me and Auburn YAL goes out to all of our volunteers who spent countless hours on this project. It wouldn’t have been possible without you guys.

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