Staff Editorial: Apparel Task Force a lonely place for student voices

They’ve marched and shouted their way into administrators’ offices to make their concerns heard, sometimes with funny cardboard cutouts to get UH administrators’ attention. While it seems the tactics have worked, members of the UH chapter of Students Against Sweatshops are still crying foul on the University’s handling of the Apparel Task Force (See story, Page 1).

UH President Renu Khator formed the task force in March to study the issue in response to UH SAS’ allegations of unfair treatment of apparel workers and a Student Government Association bill calling for the University to sign on to two programs that define and monitor workers’ rights.

While the University appears to take the issue of labor practices in the right direction by studying the issue, only one student representative has been invited to join the task force.

The five faculty members on the task force would be expected to predict what the financial impact would be on campus, but administrators should not count out students, who are the main consumers of University apparel and would be impacted most by any decision UH makes.

Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Foss told the Cougar he is not considering adding any more student representatives to the task force, although more faculty members would be welcome to lend their professional expertise on the matter.

By not letting more students join the group, the University is not allowing the student body to join in and voice their opinions on the matter. Administrators could, and should, call on students who are knowledgeable about labor issues, business and economics to take part in composing the report to Khator.

Putting a UH SAS member on the task force would raise doubts on the impartiality of the group, but these are not the only students on campus who could make informed contributions.

UH SAS’ place is, appropriately, to make their case to the task force. SGA Business Senator Stephen Quezada, the lone student representative on the task force, said UH SAS has been invited to make a presentation to the task force on April 21, which would help both groups communicate on this issue. But Quezada’s voice shouldn’t be the only one the task force consistently hears.

Administrators should introduce more student representation on the task force with students who are neutral about the proposed programs but care about reaching a sound conclusion. The reality is that one student opinion is not enough, and the University should make the necessary changes to make sure the process is not overwhelmingly dictated by staff and faculty members.

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