UA behind the vanguard on workers' rights
Wildcat File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Bradford J. Senning
In the past few weeks, college students around the nation have been protesting. In Washington, D.C. In North Carolina. In Wisconsin. The protests are about halting vicious activities in Vietnam. Although it is not a war this time, the scourge that protesters attempt to halt is just as invasive.
Students feel a responsibility to make sure corporate names that appear beside the school name on the basketball arena floorboards live up to standards of global conduct. Business has an increasing visibility on college campuses. So, codes have to be established to police businesses so that the image our scholastic institution upholds isn't weakened by the faults of a business institution. Students fed up with weak codes established by business-friendly college administrations are creating their own codes of conduct.
The current codes agreed upon by 170 university administrations and the Collegiate Licensing Company (the CLC for short, who puts the "Official Collegiate Product" seal on clothing that bears the UA insignia) require that corporations not supply schools with merchandise made in sweat shops. But they don't set terms for objective monitoring and they don't require companies to disclose the locations of factories abroad so that human rights groups can check them out. The UA and CLC codes are a sicking dog that has no teeth.
To stiffen the soft policy of the College Licensing Company, protesters at Duke, Georgetown, and University of Wisconsin-Madison require a codicil to be added to the current code: Make corporations disclose the location of every factory that supplies goods to colleges.
The UA is behind the vanguard. UA President Likins went to Seattle last year to visit with Nike officials before signing a deal to become a "Nike University." He was assured that Nike would not be big meanies anymore to the little yellow people. After patting each other's bottoms the deal was set: big smiles all around, but no factory location disclosure.
There are bad companies that have a Saddam Hussein mentality about monitoring factories abroad. They want to know in advance about the visit so they can conceal all their savage injustices and not have to force a concealment of the monitor's findings. It is only on rare occasions that we learn about criminal conditions in factories abroad. And it is bad stuff. Big companies can be bad people.
In 1997, for example, an unidentified Nike employee released a report on a Nike factory in Vietnam that had been withheld from the public. The New York Times covered it: "Thousands of women," they wrote, "labor 10 hours a day, six days a week, for slightly more than $10 a week." Workers were exposed to 177 times the amount of toluene (a carcinogen) permitted under Vietnamese law.
We prove to ourselves every day how much our voices mean to the UA administration. Students effected changes in Residence Life and the Associated Students Bookstore policies this semester with complaints to the bosses and letters that appeared in these pages. We can do the same here. UA policy-makers in these days of Arizona budget squabbles have difficulty focusing on anything except making streams of money from outside sources flow into their coffers. So, we need to jab them in the ribs from time to time so they know when their policies bite the big one.
After student protests at Duke University, administration officials reported that they will withhold their approval of Collegiate Licensing Company codes if a codicil is not added requiring full disclosure of corporate factory locations abroad. This codicil is the least UA students can ask for, an addendum to the current code that will allow for objective monitoring of business conduct in economically disadvantaged countries.
We students wear UA clothes. Our basketball team, a source of UA pride, is supported by these sponsors. Companies, who influence the UA's image as much as top-name scholars (unfortunately), should do as much to requite our thirst for knowledge. Let us study the subject of their operations abroad. Otherwise, the big meanies will continue to do bad things. It is within our power to effect change. So e-mail President Likins at Plikins@u.arizona.edu or the editor of this paper at firstname.lastname@example.org. Both are in a position to respond to issues you feel are important.