Jim McCormick" />
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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Message lost amidst actions

For the last semester, the campus has been flooded with propaganda and protests from the UH Students Against Sweatshops. While their goal of ensuring that all University apparel is made under safe working conditions and livable pay is laudable, some of their tactics have shown that the group is, at best, misguided in its attempts to affect change.

Raising awareness about the injustices of the current University apparel contract to students is a good idea, but the Student Government Association is the wrong group to address. Instead of attacking the University administration and the SGA, they should be running a flier campaign that works to inform students that clothing with the UH logo is made by underpaid workers in horrible conditions. Not only would this raise awareness of their cause, it would make them less inclined to buy UH logo clothes. They should also provide evidence and documentation to support their claims.

Creating a spectacle is important during any protest campaign, but the image that UH SAS presents in its more visceral acts of protest is one that usually provokes a poor reaction. Instead of having a mock funeral procession for worker’s rights while wearing masks of President Renu Khator’s face and leaving the empty coffin at her office, their motives would be better served by a traditional picket in the Cullen Family Plaza or at the drop-in free expression area. Their efforts were more likely to offend Khator, who had nothing to do with the current trademark licensing agreement, than to win her as an ally.

Barging into the president’s office without an appointment was also a bad idea, as was violating the University’s sign policy by hanging a banner from the balcony at the M. D. Anderson Memorial Library. University policy doesn’t exist to restrict free speech, but rather to attempt people with a good message like UH SAS from looking like charlatans. To quote the sci-fi novel Dune, "The forms must be upheld." It’s far easier to affect change from within the system’s framework than by balking against it.

UH SAS and its members should reconsider when and where they speak up. Making personal attacks on the character of the SGA Senate speaker in the open comments period of an SGA meeting was a bad idea. Quizzing him in that setting was inappropriate and a waste of people’s time, doing little to inform people of the group’s cause. That query should have been saved for the speaker’s office hours.

While I agree the Apparel Task Force should have more student members, those students should probably not come from UH SAS membership. This isn’t to say that SAS should be unwelcome at that committee’s meetings, as they can provide the committee with important information that it needs. As it stands, the committee members themselves should be as objective as possible.

Deplorable working conditions should be a thing of the past, and the University should not have contracts with the businesses that run them.

However, UH SAS is doing more harm than good to its cause through its means of protests. Instead of trying to change the situation in a mature way, the group has taken a lower road of ad hominem attacks, unnecessarily disruptive activity, and a disregard for University policy that makes everyone less inclined to hear their message.

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