Guest Commentary: Task force does little to help
To ensure UH logo clothes are not sourced from sweatshops, Dr. Khator appointed an apparel task force to address Students Against Sweatshops’ request that the University sign on to the Designated Supplier Program and affiliate with the Worker’s Rights Consortium. Khator’s claim that UH is actively addressing the issue does not stand up under scrutiny.
The University makes policy under a shared governance system. The student, staff or faculty bodies pass a bill or resolution, which gets sent to the University Coordinating Commission, who then distributes it to relevant bodies for comments. It then goes to the president to accept or reject, but ultimately it needs the board of regents’ approval before becoming a policy.
The Student Government Association unanimously passed a bill on January 16 to join the DSP and WRC. Currently that bill is out for comments and is due back to the UCC by April 8. Therefore, the shared governance system has not even run its course and Khator has added another bureaucratic layer that won’t make a recommendation until June. Thus the administration gets another crack at addressing something all relevant bodies on campus will have had a chance to weigh and comment on. Khator’s attempt to circumnavigate or re-argue an issue is problematic and calls into question the validity of the entire shared governance process.
How the task force was appointed is also questionable. When SAS filed a public information request asking for the criteria used to be appointed to the committee and all other information about sweatshops, the response returned no relevant documents. The university lawyers asked the Texas Attorney General to issue a ruling stating that they did not have to release the information. So if a criterion to get on the committee even exists, the public can’t know what it is.
The committee is made up of five faculty members, one staffer and one student. The fairer method would be to have an equal amount of students, faculty and staff.
When SAS questioned the chair of the task force about the lack of SAS members on the committee, we were told that they were only to gather facts, not make a recommendation. Yet the University press release states "The Apparel Task Force hopes to complete its inquiry and make recommendations to President Khator by June." When SAS brought that to the chair’s attention he changed his response and wrote that his committee "may be asked to make a recommendation."
When we contacted the lone student representative who also sits on the SGA and asked him to raise the issue why there was only one student, he replied that the committee was only to gather facts and recommended we take our concerns through the SGA. The provost, Dr. Donald Foss, also told the Houston Chronicle that SAS should bring their concerns to the student government when the lone staffer on the task force has stated repeatedly his adversity to workers’ rights.
It seems that if the administration is not happy with the result of the student body making a recommendation, its solution is to appoint a task force where students are outnumbered 6-1. If we as students do not like the result of our exam scores, can we appoint a committee of students and one faculty to make a recommendation?