New Activism at Old Main

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President Spanier wrote in the Chronicle of HIgher Education that student activism has greatly diminished since when he was in school (the late 1960s).

That thesis seems incorrect to us. Apparently, others felt the same way because his column got quite a reaction at the time it was published.

In November, six student groups came together to protest… Spanier’s opinion that there is no protesting? Seems like something is weird about that sentence, right? In any case, here’s the Collegian article about that Megazord of student groups, the Progressive Students’ Alliance.

Student activism has evolved over the years. Just this afternoon, we saw activism occurring practically on Graham Spanier’s door step in Graham Spanier’s office! We stopped by Old Main around 4:00 to chat with the United Students Against Sweatshops organization.

USAS is in the midst of a “study-in,” a refreshingly respectful and responsible form of activism. This kind of considerate and thoughtful activism begs the question: would Spanier rather have them throwing rocks at his window?

You may remember USAS’ earlier petition against Spanier, imploring him to sign to the Designated Suppliers Program. The USAS still wants the University to embrace that program, but this current study-in is focused on a more specific facet of the USAS mission.

Explains Chris, one of the study-in participants,

We’re trying to pressure the University to suspend its contract with Russell [Athletic], which would hopefully prevent the closing of a unionized factory in Honduras– a factory that is being closed because it s unionized.

We have more analysis and context after the jump.

Said Fitz, another member of USAS and a good friend of Onward State,

Basically, we were on a conference call with these workers a couple of months ago, and we heard these people saying that they were going to be fired. The Workers Rights Consortium went down and investigated. That organization concluded that the major reason for closing the factory was that it was unionized– not for the economic reasons that Russell had said.

The USAS told us that Penn State claims it is waiting for a report from the Fair Labor Association to confirm the findings of the Worker Rights Consortium, an independent labor watch-dog group, but the FLA has been taking an unusual and unnecessary amount of time to submit the report.

If one takes the report by WRC for granted, an appropriate assumption given that organization’s reputation, then the university is obligated to cancel its contract with Russell so that it complies with its own code of conduct.

Penn State is affiliated with the WRC. Indeed, 1% of Penn State’s apparel profit goes to monitoring these types of situations, so it doesn’t make sense for the university to ignore the findings, says USAS.

Let’s hope that at the least the USAS gets to present their argument to the administration.

Onward State hopes to follow this story to its conclusion. Let us know if you have any information to add.

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Creator of @OnwardState. Big fan of sweaters. Now at Fusion.