Press from the Independent Weekly: UNC protesters guilty, but sweat-free: UNC still fails to adequately address whether its apparel is made in sweatshops
But to me there’s a far more compelling reason to be disappointed in our rivals, and it has nothing to do with the students at UNC, at all, but everything to do with UNC’s administration. The number one reason that UNC sucks: They eat their own young.
Let me explain. This past May, UNC students staged a two-week sit-in in one of the campus buildings. They were protesting UNC Chancellor James Moeser’s decision not to endorse the Designated Suppliers Program, which is designed to make sure that university apparel isn’t made in sweatshops. The sit-in was broken up when the chancellor ordered the UNC police to arrest the protesters. Five of the protesters were convicted this month in Chapel Hill District Court, for “failure to disperse.”
So let me recap: The UNC administration, instead of supporting its student’s activism and high ethical standards, had them arrested. They pressed charges, even after the sit-in was over. Why? To send a message to other students not to threaten the approximately $3 million per year that UNC makes from selling Tar Heel-licensed clothes? Universities are supposed to demonstrate to their students the importance of principles over profit. In a shameful betrayal, Chancellor Moeser instead decided to sacrifice his own students so that the college would still be able to exploit sweatshop conditions for those producing their clothes.
It’s worth pointing out that Duke, along with 43 other schools, has adopted the DSP. In fact, Duke was at the forefront of the anti-sweatshop movement on university campuses. In 1999, Duke students had a sit-in to protest sweatshop policies, as well. What did the Duke administration do? They agreed to an anti-sweatshop code of conduct!
Duke’s record for supporting student activism isn’t perfect. In 1968, student protesters sat in the Allen Building to protest Duke’s racial inequality. Then-President Douglas Knight sent the police in to break up the protests. But that was forty years ago, and history has remembered the students, not the administration, as the heroes.
Chancellor Moeser hasn’t learned that lesson, it seems. In fact, Moeser’s tenure as Chancellor ended this June, meaning that his legacy will be tainted by his dictatorial disregard for the welfare of his wards. Perhaps he believes that history and the UNC student body will vindicate him, for arresting his own students and, worse yet, going on to prosecute them. The actions of UNC’s administration make a mockery of any university’s ideals. These were motivated, ethically aware students, who were determined to use their education for noble ends, who dared to hold their University to a high moral standard. Any Duke professor would have been proud to have them in his or her class. I would have been proud to take a class with them.
Of course, in the whirlwind of righteous indignation surrounding the students’ arrests, it’s easy to forget what started this whole ordeal in the first place. These students were working for an end to UNC’s profiting from sweatshop labor. There are some who argue that UNC’s punishment of its protesters is more symbolic than actual; that the protesters received little more than an elaborate slap on the wrist. But if that’s the case, what do the administration’s actions symbolize? That UNC refuses to end its participation in a sweatshop system, even if its students and faculty find it to be morally repulsive.
The UNC administration has refused to take a principled stand against sweatshop labor, and have crushed peaceful dissent and meaningful student activism on their campus, in one blow. Our disgust at Chancellor Moeser’s actions should have nothing to do with the Duke-UNC rivalry, and everything to do with right for students to meaningfully impact the decisions of their own university. UNC has a lot of well-meaning students and faculty, who happen to wear the wrong shade of blue. But it’s Chancellor Moeser’s twin decisions to refuse adopting the DSP, and to sacrifice his own students, that are truly embarrassing for UNC. We should hold them to account, not because they’re our rivals, but because they are our neighbors and our fellow students and faculty.
Go to Hell, Carolina! But first, stop sacrificing your students, who merely had the courage to stand up for what is right, and to hold their University to the same high standards that any University expects of its students. Maybe Tar Heel basketball will do well this year. But that doesn’t erase the stain of a University administration that has selfishly attacked those they should be supporting.
James Tager is a Trinity senior. His column runs every other Wednesday.
We requested a continuance for our trial, given that several of us are scattered across the globe during the summer. Our new trial date is August 18th at 9 am in the Chapel Hill Court House/Post Office. Thank you for all of your support! Please continue to keep in touch with us, as we will need your organizing efforts as we prepare our defense.
As promised, the campaign is continuing. Our court date is set for June 23rd– we’ll keep you posted on the organizing for that. In the meantime, check out our press page for ongoing stories about the campaign.
We have filed a public records request with the University, as it has been demonstrated to us again and again that the university refuses to act in good faith about these issues.
While students around the country were campaigning for actual enforcement of our labor codes so that workers’ human rights are actually respected, our university was involved in discussions with other universities to develop a new labor code program through the Collegiate Licensing Company (a for-profit organization that has absolutely no experience in workers rights) that they plan to present as an “alternative” to the DSP.
For three years we have been asking for open and transparent dialogue and have been denied. Although our Director of Licensing did report back to the LLCAC about a “university discussion group,” his reports did not include the extent to which the CLC was involved and indeed any substantive description of what the university task force was doing. University administrators have a responsibility to articulate the goals of university participation in any such task force in the interests of remaining transparent.
As we’ve seen again and again, UNC-Chapel Hill would prefer to remain a sweatshop university built on the abuses of workers throughout its supply chain because exploring alternatives that would protect human dignity is “idealistic,” in the words of Chancellor James Moeser, and tantamount to trying to “bail” the ocean out with a “teaspoon.”
Derek Lochbaum, UNC Director of Licensing has to these day not answered these questions posed to him by members of the LLCAC:
1. Was he asked by the Chancellor to be involved in this discussion group or did he take on this initiative by himself as the Director of Trademarks and Licensing?
2.To what extent does this initiative involves the CLC?
3. To what extent does this initiative involve the FLA?
4. Has the University committed to remaining involved in this? Where did this directive come from? (Certainly not the LLCAC, since there was never a vote on participation in this group.)
5. To what extent is this initiative characterized as a “new” licensing program (e.g., would it displace anything we are currently doing, either in terms of substantive provisions in our labor code or procedurally in terms of our use of FLA (or WRC)?
6. Was Derek approached by members of the FLA/CLC in order to be involved in this? Was this fully disclosed to the committee?
E-mail the Director of Licensing at email@example.com, call him at (919) 962-2403, and e-mail Chancellor James Moeser at James_Moeser@unc.edu and call him at (919) 962-1365 to demand that they and the entire UNC administration be transparent about this process!
We will NOT allow the real decisions to be made behind-the-scenes with a sham committee process giving them legitimacy. We want real participation, and we want real enforcement of our labor codes in order to uphold the human dignity of workers in our supply chain!
UNC, take notice: you can arrest us, but neither we nor the workers will end the campaign for human rights
University of Southern California becomes 45th school to sign onto the DSP!!!!!
From Teresa Cheng, whose LTE was published in the DTH in support of our actions
USC is now the 45th school to sign onto the DSP Working Group! After a 8 year campaign for WRC and DSP – which included 2 sit ins, rallies, protests, and being defamed and beaten to a pulp by our fascist administration- we pushed them to adopt the DSP and finally won – with all your help!
We continue to lend all of our support to students and friends at UNC, Montana, Penn State, and Appalachian State. With enough student pressure and all of your brilliance, you will succeed!
There is hope!
A note for everyone: USC’s sit-in last year ended the first day after administrators threatened to suspend students, revoke their scholarships, and kick them out of campus housing. AND NOW THEY WON.
So, UNC, take notice: you can arrest us, but we WILL win.
For a list of all the schools currently signed onto the DSP, see here
May 8, 2008 – 5:51 pm The peaceful protest of students at UNC Chapel Hill engaged in a sit-in outside Chancellor Moeser’s office to demand an end to university apparel being made in sweatshops itself ended when the Chancellor ordered their arrest.
The Chancellor’s order to arrest the students came on day 16 of the sit-in and only hours after NC AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan appeared and spoke in solidarity with the students at a rally outside the South Building.
UNC Chapel Hill makes considerable profits from the sale of apparel branded with its name and logo – apparel stiched with abuse of workers toiling in sweatshops. Arresting students that rightly take a stand against such injustices through peaceful, civil disobedience is an outrage. Such a heavy handed response may be typical of the authorities in countries where UNC-CH apparel is made, but it has no place at the flagship institution for higher education in North Carolina.
The NC State AFL-CIO calls on Chancellor Moeser and others in the administration of the University of North Carolina to immediately drop all charges against the students and adopt the Designated Suppliers Program (DSP) so that students, faculty and Tar Heel fans everywhere can wear UNC apparel with pride.