Board of Governors - APPENDIX III - February 3, 2000
The Campus & Community Affairs Committee held a public meeting on Monday evening, December 6, 1999.
In advance of the meeting, members of the University and London community were informed, through advertisements and direct mailing, that they were invited to make recommendations, proposals or submissions to the Committee on any matter under the purview of the Board. Information was also posted on the Internet at http://www.uwo.ca/univsec/board/pubmtg.
The meeting was held in the Board Room beginning at 5:00 p.m. In addition to Committee members, all other members of the Board were invited to attend this public meeting. Committee members present were: Jim Etherington (Chair), Lin Whittaker (Vice-Chair), Joel Adams, Paul Davenport, Peter Mercer, Harry Murray, Michael Rubinoff, Jan Van Fleet, and Alan Weedon.
Two presentations were scheduled for this meeting:
Students Against Sweatshops - Canada/UWO: Recommendation for a code of conduct at UWO requiring that garments bearing the UWO name be made under ethical and humane conditions. Presenters were Helen Luu, Bryan Shannon and John Goranson.
Society of Graduate Students: ACCESS 2000 Campaign. Recommendation that the Board of Governors endorse the ACCESS 2000 Campaign efforts at Western by calling upon Parliament to make a number of specific commitments. Fern Gauthier, Vice-President External of SOGS, made the presentation, and Susan McDonald, President of SOGS, was present to respond to questions.
Following each presentation there was an opportunity for questions from the Committee and informal discussion. The Committee then met in closed session to review what it had heard and to decide on the course of action to be taken, if any.
Below is a summary of each presentation and conclusions reached by the Campus and Community Affairs Committee.
Students Against Sweatshops - Canada/UWO
The representatives of SAS-C/UWO made two recommendations:
That Western adopt a code of conduct that must include the following provisions:
That the Board of Governors establish a task force to address this issue and that the University designate at least one person to be a contact between the task force and the Board of Governors. The task force's mandate would be to establish a UWO Apparel Purchasing Code of Conduct which would protect human rights and promote ethical business practices.
Students Against Sweatshops-Canada is a student movement dedicated to raising awareness on campuses about sweatshop issues and to working towards implementation of codes of conduct at universities requiring that garments bearing the university name be made under ethical and humane conditions. The Canadian group is associated with a larger organization that originated in the United States in 1998 -- United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS). The campaign has been quite active and visible on US university campuses.
The representatives of SAS-C/UWO gave an informative and persuasive presentation about why universities, and The University of Western Ontario in particular, should adopt a University apparel purchasing code of conduct. Their counterparts at other Canadian universities have mounted similar campaigns. Universities, as prestige institutions, can help expose the plight of sweatshop workers, and by so doing, assist in bringing about safe working conditions and fair wage practices in the garment industry.
The speakers advised that, in the absence of a requirement that suppliers publicly disclose the names and addresses of all factories or contractors that manufacture Western's licensed apparel, one cannot be sure that garments sold on campus are not made in sweatshops. They asserted that although it is widely believed that there are no sweatshops in North America, they do in fact exist.
Students Against Sweatshops/Canada considered and rejected the notion of boycotting apparel bearing university insignia as a way of stopping sweatshop practices. Boycotts would result in workers losing their jobs, the movement of sweatshop practices to other locations, and jeopardizing the universities' business partnerships. An apparel purchasing code of conduct is seen by the group as the best way to tackle the problem.
Mr. Donn Ekdahl, Manager of the UWO Book Store, was present at the CCAC public meeting and was able to provide the Committee with useful information. Although not the only clothing outlet on campus, the Book Store sells the majority of Western's crested apparel. The garments are purchased exclusively from Canadian or US manufacturers (not from distributors), based on the quality of the end product and association with marks of the University. In all, the Book Store deals with some 55 manufacturers in Canada and 5 in the US. A very small number of items are imported because there are no suppliers in North America (e.g., some nylon sports shorts). The market for university crested apparel is not as developed in Canada as in the US, and for this reason the best impact on the fight against sweatshops would be through a consortium of the larger universities accepting the spirit of the campaign.
The SAS-C/UWO spokespersons advised that a task force at the University of Toronto, working with members of Students Against Sweatshops, has been developing a university apparel purchasing code of conduct, and it is expected that a code will be adopted there in the near future. The presenters at CCAC indicated that the University of Toronto code could provide the basis for a code at Western. They urged that the Board of Governors establish a task force, including representatives from their organization, to develop a code of conduct, and that one person be named to be a contact between the task force and the Board of Governors.
Conclusions of the CCAC:
The Committee concluded that adoption of a university apparel purchasing code of conduct is worth further consideration. The Committee believes it would not be productive to strike a task force to draft a code of conduct from the ground up. Rather, the policy developed by the University of Toronto (and any other Canadian universities engaged in this exercise) should be considered by CCAC as a basis for a code of conduct at Western. Consistency in policy in the Canadian context should help realize the objectives of such policy. Once the Toronto code has been reviewed and adapted to Western's context, representatives from SAS-C/UWO will be invited to participate in discussions about the draft with CCAC before any code would be proposed to the Board of Governors.
In response to the SAS-C/UWO request for a contact person, the Committee asked that Mr. Donn Ekdahl serve as a contact person for the SAS group. He has agreed to act in this capacity.
The University Secretariat, acting on behalf of CCAC, has initiated an exchange of information with a number of Canadian universities in an effort to collect codes of conduct that are under discussion or already in place.
ACCESS 2000 Campaign
The representative of the Society of Graduate Students recommended:
That the Board of Governors endorse the ACCESS 2000 Campaign efforts at Western by calling upon Parliament to:
Mr. Fern Gauthier, Vice-President External of the Society of Graduate Students, gave the presentation on the ACCESS 2000 Campaign which is being mounted by the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), of which SOGS is a member.
A Canada-wide Day of Action will occur on February 2, 2000. SOGS endorses ACCESS 2000 and asks that the Board recognize the campaign initiatives to be taken at Western.
Mr. Gauthier explained that the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) represents both graduate and undergraduate students at certain universities. At Western, CFS represents graduate students while the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) represents undergraduate students at Western. He stated that CASA has its own plan of action.
Mr. Gauthier and Ms. McDonald elaborated on each of the points of their recommendation. The proposal to "progressively reduce tuition fees and bring about the eventual removal of user fees [i.e., tuition fees] for post-secondary education" is based on a 1976 United Nations resolution, to which Canada was a signatory.
Conclusions of the CCAC:
It was the considered opinion of the CCAC that it would be impracticable for the Board of Governors to support a particular group's initiatives in the areas included in the SOGS recommendation. However, the Board and Western's administration will continue to endorse the position taken by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and student groups in support of restoring federal transfer payments to post-secondary education and student aid.