UH SAS calls for increased student input
Members of Students Against Sweatshops allege UH administrators are not paying attention to their concerns by not including more students on the University’s Apparel Task Force, formed in March.
SGA Senator and Speaker Stephen Quezada said the Apparel Task force was initially created to serve for educational purposes with one staff member, five faculty members and Quezada as the only student.
"The purpose of the task force is to inform ourselves and the administration," Quezada said.
History doctoral student and past SGA senator at-large Tim O’Brien said UH SAS went to the SGA Senate meeting because Quezada had told them to, via e-mail. He said the intent was not to embarrass Quezada, but to bring up the fact that the students’ concerns were not being addressed in the task force.
O’Brien said UH SAS tried contacting Quezada with their concerns but never heard back from him and that as a student representative, he needs to have student concerns at heart.
"(Quezada) doesn’t know anything about anything… don’t be on a committee if you don’t address our concerns," O’Brien said.
In January, the SGA Senate’s 44th Administration passed a resolution calling for University affiliation with the Worker Rights Consortium and to sign on to the Designated Suppliers Program. Since then, UH President Renu Khator created the task force, which is only to learn about the issue, O’Brien said.
The WRC is a non-profit organization intended to increase public awareness of factory conditions around the world. The organization also aspires to keep colleges and universities informed of factory conditions where items with their logos and names are made.
Sociology freshman and UH SAS member Brendan Laws said the organization has been trying to get in touch with Khator to talk about the WRC and where UH stands on the issue, but she has yet to respond to the organization. He said ignoring the issue and acting as though sweatshop workers aren’t important, treats them like they are dead.
"She’s basically killing (sweatshop) workers right now," Laws said.
Laws also said that UH SAS wants five more students on the Apparel Task Force and for Quezada to be removed because he is not concerned about the WRC, is biased in his opinion, and has lied about the UH SAS contacting him.
"At least one of (UH SAS) should be on the committee," Laws said.
Quezada said that he never lied about UH SAS contacting him and that the organization had never attempted to meet with him to discuss their concerns with the Apparel Task Force. He said despite the organization’s request to have him removed from the task force, he doesn’t plan on resigning and that UH SAS was wrong when members claimed he does not care about students.
"I’m in the student government to make this campus better for students…if I was an apathetic student or was unconcerned about students’ concerns, I wouldn’t be involved with student government," Quezada said.
He also said UH SAS members have been invited to make a presentation to the task force on April 21. Quezada said he is looking into what other colleges and universities are currently involved with the WRC and the DSP and what the organization is really about. He said students are not equally represented on the task force and that adding a few more wouldn’t hurt.
"I have no doubt that other faculty could also help, and I’m sure that the task force will be willing to hear from them, as well as from staff and from students," Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Foss said. "I have no plans to recommend a change in the composition of the task force."
Because the Apparel Task Force was assembled by Foss, Quezada said he did not know the specific criteria to be eligible for the task force.
Foss said in an e-mail that Khator appointed members on his recommendation. He said he recommended the faculty members because of their professional experience, and the staff and student representatives were chosen because of their leadership roles.
"In making my recommendations, I did not know and still do not know whether any appointee had a prior position on this topic, only that it is likely that his or her area of expertise could help in the deliberations," Foss said.
Quezada said the task force is not trying to stall making a decision about signing the WRC, but merely want to be as educated as possible.
"We have to be careful when a very small group of students use radical tactics to push personal agendas…we have to consider the source," he said.