Although the campus has been embroiled for the past week in controversy surrounding proposed changes to its Greek system, many other schools across the nation have been holding protests for a more global cause. The University of Wisconsin, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Yale, Brown, Cornell and Princeton have all held rallies in recent weeks calling for more stringent regulation of companies that employ sweatshop workers to manufacture collegiate-logo apparel.
All colleges and universities, including Dartmouth, have agreements with manufacturing companies or their intermediate agencies to use the school’s logo in production of goods such as T-shirts, sweatshirts, baseball hats and other items. However, many of these manufacturers employ laborers in third world nations under substandard working conditions to produce the goods.
Protestors on several campuses have rallied in an attempt to implement regulatory codes that would require manufacturers to abide by higher standards for working conditions and monitoring in order to use the school’s logo. The main changes demanded include: immediate and full disclosure of all factory locations, a mandatory living wage and a concern for women’s rights.
Some colleges market their logo through an intermediate agency, the largest being the Collegiate Licensing Company which represents 170 schools, but others, including Dartmouth, directly negotiate with manufacturers.
The CLC has its own code for monitoring manufacturers but many students find the system ineffective.
Recently at Duke University, students pressured their college’s president to sign a statement saying she would withdraw from the Collegiate Licensing Company if the current code is not altered within a year.
At the University of Wisconsin last week approximately 100 students participated in a four-day sit-in, protesting for more stringent regulatory codes.
At Georgetown University, dozens of students occupied the president’s office for around six days in a similar protest.
This past week, related protests were held at five Ivy League Colleges including Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Brown and Cornell.
Amanda Fulmer, president of Princeton’s SPEAC, Students for Progressive Education and Action, said, Princeton’s rally “was part of our ongoing involvement with the sweatshop issue and was supposed to be consciousness-raising.”
“We will not accept a code that is weak,” she said.
Yesterday, representatives from several Ivy League schools met in New York City to discuss the sweatshop codes among other issues. Sean Gorman, Dartmouth’s associate College counsel, participated via a conference call.
Gorman said yesterday’s conference was “one of a number of meetings we have had to discuss how to handle sweatshops.”
He said the College has not yet subscribed to a code but is considering cooperating with the Fair Labor Association Code, a White House initiative developed through the Department of Labor. The FLA code will enforce its own regulations and monitoring on manufacturers. The College would then require manufacturers to abide by the FLA code to use the school’s logo.
“It is premature to say what Dartmouth is going to do,” said Gorman. “Different institutions [in the Ivy League] may take different views. There has been a common effort but schools may decide not to do the same thing.”
“I think what Dartmouth does or doesn’t do is unlikely to change anybody’s behavior,” he said. He said the College is “a small drop in the bucket” compared to the net business of these manufacturers.