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Editorial Recap: Follies & forward moves

Arizona Daily Wildcat
May 12, 1999
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Here's a recap of some of the fodder for discussion and a Wildcat editorial or two this year.

The Nike-Pepsi effect

As loathe as anyone is to lump sugar-mongers with sweatshop users, it is true nonetheless that the Nike and Pepsi contracts are shades of the same color of commercialism.

Sometimes the result is relatively innocuous. The PepsiCo contract, for example, provides an 85 percent near-monopoly of UA shelf space but all in the name of returns to the university to the tune of nearly $16 million over ten years. We've put up with the ASUA Bookstore for its returns to ASUA. We can drink one soda over another in the name of university help, including a $34.4 million boost to Memorial Student Union renovations.

Brand name preference, however, is just a small sell-out compared to the hard-hitting Nike contract, signed last August. The corporation, found by several newspapers to misuse overseas labor, including children, enlisted 14 Wildcat sports teams to wear its controversy-tainted apparel after promising reforms and $7 million.

Much hue and cry over the contract brought one important clause that the UA can pull out if Nike is found to be violating its own promise for reform.

Finding an independent monitor to check on apparel-makers' labor practices precipitated another controversy over exactly which group can serve as an adequate monitor. Likins' chose the Fair Labor Association, alleged by Students Against Sweatshops to be rife with potential for corporate corruption. The UA chapter of the group staged a sit-in, the longest in the history of the national organization, in university President Peter Likins' office. They demanded reforms and the adoption of four resolutions the university will push the FLA to adopt by various deadlines. The sit-in ended after nearly 10 days in an accord between the president and the group with most of the demands adopted in substance.

All this shows the mixed blessings and curse of marrying a college to businesses. Moral taint and outrage is balanced with an opportunity for students and academics to exert influence over pressing matters of human importance.

Whether all this will ultimately be for the better or the worst for overseas workers, many of whom would rather have jobs in a foreign factory than not, but should and must be accorded the intrinsic recognition of a universal standard of human rights, remains to be seen.

State Legislator hall of shame

From the controversy over Antigone Books to Women's Studies, students this school year were treated to an unflattering view of the unrestrained homophobia and plain folly of conservatism and simple foolishness gone amuck in the state house.

The first in the Legislator hall of shame is Sen. Randall Gnant (R-Scottsdale), actually the more sympathetic of the bunch. Gnant wins for considering a measure that would have, if passed, phased out state funding for the UA College of Law, threatening a $115 million donation from media mogul James E. Rogers. That donation tops all others to law schools around the country.

Gnant's threat and its implications sent law school officials aflutter with concern.

"If the law school is treated disproportionately the Rogers' gift will be withdrawn," Law College Dean Joel Seligman told the Wildcat.

Gnant later said he proposed the failed measure not expecting it to pass, but simply hoping it would shake up UA administrators.

Draw your own conclusions.

Then Rep. Karen Johnson (R-Mesa) shouldered her way into the news by sheer dint of her homophobia.

The legislator who finds homosexuality "disgustingly disturbing" proposed a bill to threaten insurance benefits for same-sex and unmarried partners of employees in Pima County, who now receive these benefits.

"It is critical to our nation's health and survival to restore social virtue and purity to our state and nation," Johnson said. "Public policy must be established by which promiscuous heterosexual activity and homosexual activity is firmly resisted."

That such statements can be made by a responsible, contemporary adult, much less an adult in government was frankly shocking and a wake-up call, if nothing else. The tide of bigotry has yet to turn.

Next is Rep. Linda Gray (R-Phoenix). She submitted, then withdrew, a proposal to cut $1.6 million from the Women's Studies department with a lingering threat that the department better become more conservative.

"They better get it together and in a hurry," she told the Wildcat.

Besides taking issue with the liberalism of the department, she is targeting instructors' practices of listing their books at Antigone Books, a feminist bookstore.

One briefly considered measure by the university after the assault was proportionately silly - course content warnings on courses deemed potentially objectionable to some, chilling the purpose of educational exploration in universities.

These legislators are examples of folks students, educators and lawmakers would do well not to emulate, or it seems, even take seriously.

Controversies over child care and Residence Life and the Likins factor

The common thread of the abortive Residence Life effort to give freshmen preference in dorms and the push toward increased child care subsidies is the Likins factor. In both cases, the university president waded into issues popularized by dint of their unpopularity among students.

When Residence Life announced a plan in January that would give next year's freshmen priority in dorm room assignments and allocate leftover rooms to returning residents by lotteries, current dorm dwellers voiced vehement protest.

Subsequent to a hastily pushed protest against the measure, Likins met with disgruntled current residents and promised that parts of the unpopular plan would be amended.

Residence Life ended up staving off the plan until fall 2000. Instead, officials purchased a sorority house and announced plans to increase room occupancy to accommodate the influx of residents.

Dorm dwellers hailed the retreat as a victory for them.

In the continuing debate over child care, Likins this year met with student representatives and agreed this semester to quadrapule childcare subsidies to $50,000.

The waiting list of hopeful student parents numbered 60 prior to the agreement.

"The students have really directed me to a position of active support," Likins told the Wildcat.

This sentiment shows a break from the precedents of a remote president.

Likins also pledged support for a child care facility.

"We have no financial plan for a child care facility," Likins said. "If it were self-supporting, our students would typically not be able to afford its services. So we definitely have a challenge to meet."

The challenge remains.