Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya



Students Occupy President O’Donovan’s Office for 85 Hours; Compromise to Be Announced at 4 p.m. Rally in Healy Circle

Agreement Includes New GU Committee

By Andy Amend Hoya Staff Writer

Student activists signed an agreement with Student Affairs administrators shortly before 1 a.m. today, ending an 85-hour sit-in by approximately 25 students in the office of University President Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J. The details of the compromise will be announced at a rally scheduled for 4 p.m. today in Healy Circle.

The students had occupied O’Donovan’s office since 11:50 a.m. Friday in an effort to force the university to negotiate with them about issues related to working conditions in the factories that make collegiate apparel. O’Donovan was out of town for the entire sit-in and is expected to return to campus today.

Several members of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee organized the sit-in and represented the students in negotiations with administration representatives Dean of Students James A. Donahue, and Senior Associate Dean of Students Penny Rue.

The solidarity committee had been attempting to persuade the university to reject a controversial code of conduct released in November for apparel manufacturers.

The committee maintained that the code, the product of a task force made up of representatives from 14 member schools of the Collegiate Licensing Company, did not do enough to counteract sweatshop labor practices. The licensing company acts as a go-between for clothing manufacturers and approximately 170 colleges and universities.

The Georgetown activists’ major concern this weekend was that the code did not require licensed companies to publicly disclose the locations of their factories. While the solidarity committee outlined other criticisms in a pamphlet distributed two weeks ago, disclosure became the students’ primary demand because, they said, it was essential for achieving their other goals, which include improving wages and strictly enforcing compliance with the code.

“Anyone who has studied this issue will tell you disclosure is the most important thing that allows other things to happen,” Andrew Milmore (SFS ’01), president of the solidarity committee said. Calling disclosure a “sign of good faith on the part” on the part of companies, Milmore said it was impossible to monitor factories adequately or do research on living conditions – a necessary part of wage studies – if production sites remained a secret.

Milmore said the students’ goal was to ensure that companies who did not disclose their locations within a year would not have their contracts with Georgetown renewed. However, he said, the administration did not wish to be bound by an absolute commitment.

While Milmore did not explain how this conflict was resolved, he did say, “I can say that we are pleased with this.”

Former solidarity committee president, and one of the students’ lead negotiators, Ben Smith (MSB ’99) concurred, “We got what we wanted.”

Donahue portrayed the discussion somewhat differently, saying the administration wanted to ensure that the entire university community would be includedin a commitment to full disclosure. Meanwhile, he said, the students wanted to be sure the university’s commitment to full disclosure would remain firm.

“We got bogged down in issues as to how the community as a whole was going to play a role in reaching this agreement,” Donahue said.

“First of all we had to determine how to communicate our commitment to full disclosure to our licensees . . Secondly, we had to make sure that the university as a whole was invested in our commitment to full disclosure,” he later said. Faculty members have not been fully involved in the issue, Donahue said.

Georgetown will form a university-wide licensing implementation committee composed of faculty, students and administrators, Donahue said.

Solidarity committee leadership decided to stage the sit-in after Donahue failed to reach a compromise with students last week and said the university intended to sign the code.

“We were tired of the run around and we saw no other option, ” Milmore said. Milmore said the sit-in prevented Donahue from endorsing the code on Georgetown’s behalf.

Students have voiced similar concerns about the licensing company code at Duke University and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where student groups have also staged sit-ins within the past week and a half. Starting Jan. 29, students at Duke staged a 31-hour sit-in in their chancellor’s office, and last night, 50 to 60 students at Wisconsin began a sit-in in a university administrative building.

Both schools have agreed to seek full disclosure of factory locations as a condition of signing the code. onday’s sit-in at Wisconsin dealt with wage issues.

Students from both Duke and Wisconsin expressed support for the Georgetown protesters, as did those from 30 schools who attended a national conference of the Student Peace Action Network in Washington, D.C. this weekend. SPAN is an organization devoted to human rights and other political issues.

Both sides at Georgetown welcomed the agreement after three and a half days of negotiation. Applause accompanied the signing ceremony, in which Donahue, Rue and student protesters, as well as those who helped manage outside communications during the sit-in, signed the accord.

Various members of GUSA and the Student Leadership Reform Group, which is working to reform GUSA’s constitution, attended the signing as well. The GUSA assembly had unanimously passed a resolution supporting the protesters earlier Monday night.

“I have a profound sense of accomplishment. When you work hard for something and you reach a goal, it’s a great feeling.” Donahue said.

“I’ve never fought so hard for something,” Smith said. ” . It’s been a life-changing experience.”

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