The No-Sweat Coalition, which protests UR?s possible connection to sweatshop labor, ended the 2000-2001 academic year without much to show for its work.
In November, UR President Thomas Jackson ruled that UR would not join the Worker Rights Consortium, the Fair Labor Association or any other sweatshop-monitoring organization.
His ruling agreed with that of the University Apparel Manufacturing Committee, which had recommended that course of action by a vote of 6-3.
The committee had concluded after six months of deliberation that questions still existed concerning the organizations? effectiveness.
?My feeling is that there is no evidence that joining the WRC will provide for student input, that the organization is stable enough and that they can do the practices they say they are going to do,? said committee chair Mary-Beth Cooper, dean of students for the College.
Senior and Students? Association Senate representative Shawn Goldman was a committee member of the minority opinion. He said the six months of discussion had convinced him of the WRC?s ability to improve factory conditions.
?I came into the discussion really skeptical of the committee and the No-Sweat movement,? Goldman said. ?I come out confident with both.?
In a letter to the university, Jackson said he shared the reservations expressed by the committee?s majority report. He also recommended ?continuing vigilance and study? of the issue, which resulted in four more committee meetings during the spring semester.
Junior and No-Sweat Co-President Sarah Clock, a non-voting member of the committee, expressed disgust with Jackson?s decision.
?President Jackson fails to live up to the intellectual and professional standards of this university by merely regurgitating the committee?s majority decision,? she said. ?His memorandum does not accurately reflect the encouragement of open dialogue, the concerns of the students or the university motto ?Meliora,? but instead confirms his distance from the university community.?
The apparel committee was forced to tackle another issue this semester, as No-Sweat applied pressure to vote for full public disclosure of UR?s clothing manufacturing sites.
Over the course of four meetings, the committee took no action, declining to put the matter to a vote.
?When we were looking at monitoring, we had to consider the ramification for the institution,? Director of Purchasing Quentin Roach said after the second meeting on March 28. ?We owe [disclosure] that same thought process. There is a lot more education to do about this than people want to believe.?
Sweatshop issues and the disclosure of supplier information are not covered by any specific university policy, Roach said.
?It is not our practice to release any supplier lists in general. That is the policy, but we continue to look at it and review it,? he said.
The committee invited Barnes and Noble representative Joel Friedman to talk about the ramifications of disclosure April 18. Friedman said trust between buyers and sellers is the issue at hand, not disclosure.
?Full public disclosure is not going to solve the problem,? he said. ?The fundamental issue is of trust.?
Once again, a vote was not taken.
?Full public disclosure seems like a straightforward task to accomplish, but quite frankly, it didn?t appear that way when I heard Mr. Friedman discuss it today,? Cooper said.
However, members of No-Sweat feel administrators are putting the issue to death by committee.
?Due to the administrators? reluctance to vote, nothing constructive occurred at the meeting although students and professors pushed for action on the disclosure issue,? said junior Kirk Scirto, No-Sweat co-president.
In its final April 25 meeting, the committee recommended that Jackson form a task force to study disclosure and its implications.
Roach said disclosure would be impractical because the supplier list is a moving target.
?The supplier list could literally change every day,? he said. ?Items sitting on our [bookstore?s] floor today could have been sourced one year ago.?
Professor of Anthropology Thomas Gibson said, ?The information will always be imperfect, but the more information, the better.?
After the meeting, Goldman and Clock resigned in protest, saying the committee had made no progress.
No-Sweat has increased its protest volume over the spring semester. After the final committee meeting, members took off their shirts and sang ?We Shall Overcome,? and then marched to Wallis Hall in an unsuccessful attempt to meet with Jackson.
A February protest simulated a makeshift sweatshop on the steps of Rush Rhees Library, complete with chicken wire and a bloody T-shirt. Another time, Scirto donned a mask of Jackson and pretended not to listen while other members beseeched him to join the WRC. No-Sweat has also held concerts, candlelight vigils and a camp-out on the Academic Quad.
Reporting by Todd Hildebrandt, Liz Robbins, Todd Pipitone, Liz F. Kay, Pranav Chandra, Pooja Dhume and Cecilia Le.