Volume 93, Issue 91

Wednesday, March 22, 2000


U of T students sit for sweatshops

Cultural Caravan stops in atrium

Kissel in race for CASA director

Parents oppose Harris' new code of conduct

Jane Jacobs talks city business

New study to explain rising gas prices

Cab company makes switch to natural gas


Bass Ackwards

Caught on campus

U of T students sit for sweatshops

By Leena Kamat
Gazette Staff

In an effort to turn the University of Toronto against sweatshops, U of T students are in the middle of a protest – in their president's office.

The sit-in was sparked by the removal of an important clause in the university's proposed code of conduct with regards to sweatshops, said Sangeeta Keria, a member of Students Against Sweatshops at the university. The clause stated workers should be paid enough for basic living expenses.

"Morale is pretty high," Keria said in an interview from Robert Prichard's office. "Everyone is really focused on the issue. We are very peaceful and have no interest in violence or defacing property."

Keria said the group of eight, which has been protesting since last Wednesday, wanted to ensure all university products were not made in Third World sweatshops.

Jane Stirling, manager of public affairs at U of T, explained the school had been developing a policy and a code of conduct for the last 18 months. The policy and code would be presented to the University Affairs Board on April 18 and then to the Governing Council, the university's top governing body, on May 11, she said.

"We are very close to a strong and powerful code," said Ian Orchard, vice-provost, students at U of T. "I believe it will be the first code passed by a Canadian university. We are showing leadership."

According to Keria, the clause was taken out because administration did not see how it could be enforced without concrete numbers. Keria said a number of groups would be going to Third World countries to determine the cost of living which would give the school numbers to work with.

Stirling said the code was still in a draft stage. "Just because something has been taken out, it doesn't mean it will stay out.

"The university will not be talking to students as long as they are sitting in the president's office," Stirling added. "The president is away on a family vacation and if the protesters are still in his office when he returns, he will move to another office."

Keria said the group would continue their protest until the clause was returned.

Stirling added the university would not physically force the students to leave. Protesters were free to leave the presidential suites if they so chose, but they would not be allowed back in.

Keria said the administration was using secondary tactics to discourage the protesters. The fluorescent lights in the office were left on 24 hours a day and music was blasted throughout the night. However, she said these tactics have had little effect.

"Without the living wage clause, the code is not good enough," said Helen Luu, a fourth-year sociology student at Western and a member of Western's SAS. She added without it, the code would only be a public relations tool and not an actual code.

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