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By Rene Alegria
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 7, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

For many college students, images of protest like strikes and sit-ins are relegated to past eras where big money and corporate conglomerates were few and far between.

Sadly, the fervor of these eras, which effectively changed the way people in America organize and protest, diminished in recent years, leaving the social waters of protest wakeless.

Until now.

Throughout the nation, student organizers are once again visible, and again demanding change toward the practice of responsible economics, or soulful capitalism.

The New York Times reported that students at Duke, Georgetown, Yale and 20 other institutions have focused on the sweat shirts and caps emblazoned with college names that are sold in every university shop, demanding that the companies which license college names not use overseas sweatshops.

The University of Arizona is among the 20. We have all seen or heard about the protests against sweatshops on the University of Arizona campus - specifically those directed against the university's contract with Nike and the suspect way in which the company maintains its overseas factories.

Most recently, a letter was sent last week by the self-dubbed group Students Against Sweatshops to the leader of each student campus organization. In the letter, the group requests the full support of the organization to which the student leader belongs. Along with requesting student support, the letter also had attached a "statement of position on the current situation at the U of A."

In this statement of position, which was also an open letter to UA President Peter Likins, the group demanded that, "any contract or group into which the University of Arizona enters regarding the apparel industry include:"

Full public disclosure of factory addresses for the companies involved and their subcontractors

A pledge to pay a living wage

A pledge to implement unannounced independent monitoring of factories

A pledge to enforce the protection of women's rights with respect to equal pay, non-discrimination, pregnancy and maternity leave, and freedom from sexual harassment.

The letter to President Likins also stated that these provisions must be implemented by the UA-patronized groups or companies by the end of August 1999 so that the university may continue its participation in the Fair Labor Association. This membership gives the university the politically correct ability to brag about its blending capitalism with social consciousness.

With the rising fervor of these student protesters comes an overwhelming sigh of social relief. People who wish to re-focus attention away from making money and toward making responsible money can now do so.

More importantly, they're doing so and shedding the "this is not 1969" stigma which made many students run from politically correct labor reform during the 80s and early 90s.

The change in attitude toward how business is conducted is finally beginning to take root in the minds of many college students. Many students are learning that business is viably connected to social reform, a fact hypocritical baby-boomers have demonstrated they long since forgot, as they slowly become everything they once protested against.

With the advent of the Internet as a tool in which to organize, young Americans can mix media savvy with an acute ability to harness the attention of millions of individuals worldwide. Student organizers are now catching the attention of many, with little effort. There are thousands of websites devoted to organized activism, whose technological elite are primarily young students, with a renewed vigor in voicing issues concerning reform. The Chicago 7 has been replaced by Yahoo and AOL millions.

Whether the cause be sweatshops in Malaysia, or the rising of the minimum wage, it's about time organized students such as Students Against Sweatshops finally made there indelible print on the world.

With technology as their megaphone, student organizers can have their message spouted worldwide. While many dazed young people fall into youthful, yuppie roles based solely on the mounting of material items, others are showing restraint and responsibility by creating new ways in which Yankee ingenuity can be put to good use. It's about time.