By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 30, 1997

Nike's sweatshops not a deal breaker

With a partnership between the UA athletic department and Nike nearly completed, the University is now faced with the ethical question of whether the University should support a company that is rumored to manufacture products in Asian sweatshops.

According to published reports, these sweatshops in Vietnam, Indonesia and China employ 13-year-old children who work up to 17 hours a day for only 10 cents an hour. While Nike has refused to accept the validity of these reports, its reputation has still been tarnished.

Cecilia Lou, the assistant dean of Asian Pacific American Student Affairs, wishes that her department could have been consulted on the deal.

"I would have appreciated the opportunity to discuss the issue," Lou said. "I hope that the Athletic Department did what was best for the University, and I have faith that they did the appropriate research."

Associated Students President Gilbert Davidson is also confident that Arizona did its homework before agreeing to a deal.

"I am sure the university weighed both sides of the issue before making its decision," Davidson said. "You have to ask yourself, 'At what cost are the benefits that we would receive in the deal?'"

Richard Arum, a professor in Sociology, feels that there is a fine line between upholding proper values and hampering the financial status of the University.

"You have to ask if Nike is worse than most other corporations in terms of social responsibilities. And I would be surprised if Nike was worse than many others," Arum said. "When you look at every company, you could probably make a point to not accept money from anybody. But as a state-funded university that needs that support for scholarships and other important areas, I really wouldn't want to tie them down in that way.

"You have to be careful and make sure you're not responding to just the corporate campaign of the day."

One person who has had direct contact with Nike is Arizona head volleyball coach Dave Rubio. Last Spring, Rubio and 22 other Nike-sponsored volleyball coaches flew to a convention that addressed these issues.

"Before I had a chance to talk to Nike, I was a little concerned about their activities," Rubio said. "But they explained the situation well enough for me to understand and I feel they've made an effort to correct any mistakes that may have taken place."

Athletic director Jim Livengood said he wouldn't make any comment until the deal was finalized.

While the athletic department and the university may thrive financially under their new partnership with Nike, it is important to measure the impact that such an agreement would have with the Asian community. And this decision is one that the Department of Asian Pacific American Student Affairs could have shed some light on.

"I am sure that this is something that was regarded with extreme caution," Lou said. "But in the future I would love to be involved."

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