Seventeen members of workers’ rights advocacy group Georgetown Solidarity Committee are staging a sit-in in University President John J. DeGioia’s suite of offices to protest the university’s licensing contract with Nike.
About 50 Georgetown community members also rallied in Dahlgren Quadrangle shortly after the sit-in began at 10:00 a.m., before staging a sit-in in the foyer of DeGioia’s offices. Chief of Staff Joe Ferrara and Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson both engaged with the protesters.
The action comes after Tuesday’s demand by GSC that the university cut its contract with Nike by the close of business hours Wednesday. According to GSC member Dan Zager (COL ’18), in a follow-up meeting between GSC and Ferrara yesterday, the university said it did not cut the contract.
The members are willing to continue the sit-in until DeGioia takes action, according to GSC member Vincent DeLaurentis (SFS ’17).
“They’re going to stay as long as it takes,” DeLaurentis said. “You need to ask President DeGioia how long they’re going to stay there because he needs to cut the contract before we leave.”
Chief of Police Jay Gruber said the protesters are able to demonstrate in the foyer as long as they do not create a fire hazard.
“[All I care about] is safe paths in case there’s a fire emergency or people who have business, that’s all. They can sit here until the building closes as far as I’m concerned,” Gruber said. “That’s fine, this is a public space, they’re welcome to it. All we’ll ask for is quiet because there’s a seminar taking place and that there’s safe pathways. Other than that, I’m fine with it.”
The students taking part in the sit-in in DeGioia’s suite were prevented from using the bathroom for the first two hours of the protest by being refused permission to re-enter the suite, according to Zager, who is one of the 17 students taking part in the sit-in in the suite.
Ferrara has not responded to requests for comment as of 1 p.m.
The demonstrators placed a banner outside Healy Hall stating “Occupied until DeGioia cuts Nike.” Students gathered on the steps of Healy also chanted statements including “Nike and Georgetown sitting in a tree perpetuating slavery.”
The contract is set to expire Dec. 31. The licensing contract with Nike is one of two between the company and Georgetown regarding Nike’s use of Georgetown’s logo. Nike remains the only university-licensed vendor to not sign Georgetown’s Code of Conduct for University Licensees, which specifies standards of labor, wages, safety and health.
Students in GSC and other student organizations, including at Cornell University and the University of Washington, have called attention to human rights abuses in Nike factories following the strike of thousands of employees at a Nike factory in Hansae, Vietnam, in November 2015.
The Worker Rights Coalition, an independent factory monitoring agency that investigates Georgetown’s partnered companies, said in a Nov. 17, 2015, memo to member university that Nike had denied it access to the Hansae factory.
GSC has called for the university to discontinue allowing Nike to remain a licensing partner without signing the code of conduct and is demanding that the contract not be renewed.
Tuesday’s letter delivery and demands from GSC came the same day that WRC released a 113-page report on the conditions of the Hansae factory, to which Nike provided access in October, according to the report. The report says Nike’s agreement to the inspections came after intervention by Georgetown and the University of Washington.
A WRC memo to the university in May in advance of the release of the report alerted Georgetown to the conditions at the Hansae factory.
Kendell Long (COL ’19) said he joined the rally and sit-in in the foyer to support human rights for the factory workers.
“I feel like collective liberation is important for all movements, and so I show up in solidarity and support for other movements fighting for what should be inherent human rights, and that’s what I’m here for today,” Long said.
The Georgetown University Student Association said in a statement posted on Facebook Wednesday night that it supports student efforts to hold Nike accountable.
“We support the students and student athletes in their efforts to advocate for Hoya apparel we can wear with pride, and we support President DeGioia in being a leader in the university community for ensuring our University business practices truly reflect our values,” the statement reads. “Moving forward, we hope the University actively engages our student body in these conversations, especially given the recently released WRC report.”
This post will be updated as more information becomes available.