Arizona Daily Wildcat
Faculty chair hopes activists, administration work together against sweatshops
Although the media attention is fading and the motorcycle police squad has gone home, UA administrators are just beginning to react to last week's protest.
Members of Students Against Sweatshops and supporting students blocked the entrances to the University of Arizona Administration building for eight hours Thursday in an effort to bring attention to the sweatshop controversy facing the UA.
Although they were largely silent that day, UA administrators and faculty members said this week that the protest was excessive.
Jerrold Hogle, chair of the UA Faculty Senate and an English professor, said the protest was too extreme considering the progress made by the university against sweatshop labor.
Hogle said that although UA President Peter Likins has not removed the university from the Fair Labor Association, as requested by SAS and the UA Human and Labor Rights Task Force, Likins has been actively involved in the University Advisory Council within the FLA.
SAS has taken a rigid interpretation of Likins' actions, Hogle added, and this hinders their ability to see what he has done for the sweatshop situation.
"I think the chances to get more support would occur if they moved away from their extremist actions," Hogle said. "I hope their next step involves coalition building."
Hogle proposed a peaceful coalition where the members work together to attain a common goal, and aren't broken apart by individuals acting on their own.
The protest held last week alienated many people, he added, including the president.
As of yesterday, no official communication had been made between the Likins and SAS regarding the protest.
"I was totally surprised because I had been meeting with representatives from the group just two days prior to the protest," Likins said. "We had a perfectly splendid conversation about the possible funding we were going to provide for corporate investigations."
While SAS had a right to demonstrate, he added, they should not compromise the daily lives of other people.
The overnight cleaning crew at the administration building was "terrified" by the situation, and only called police after they were not able to find a way out of the building, Likins said.
Likins instructed police not to issue felony charges to the students who acted with "youthful indiscretion."
Likin's said his own activism history includes anti-war, anti-apartheid and anti-segregation protests, none of which resulted in the breaking of any laws.
"I think that civil disobedience is a legitimate method of protest," he said. "On the other hand, it has to be thought out very carefully."
Andrew Silverman, a UA law professor and chair of the task force, observed the lockdown but was in no way involved in its conception.
Although his last direct involvement with SAS was during the April 1999 sit-in held in Likins' office, Silverman said he supports the idea that people should be able to make strong statements about their beliefs.
When people put their bodies on the line for a cause, Silverman added, they are obviously dedicated to obtaining their goal.
"There are many issues that the FLA needs to address," he said. "And until they do that, they won't be in compliance with the SAS commitment."
Silverman cited issues facing the FLA, such as the monitoring of corporate factories and their commitment to a living wage, as obstacles to SAS's acceptance of the university's FLA membership.
Silverman declined to comment on the extremity of the protest, but said that anytime people make strong statements they are just as likely to attract supporters as to deter them.