Group to Examine Insignia Licensing
October 25, 1999
President Philip E. Austin has appointed a Task Force on College Licensing Issues to examine ways to ensure that UConn insignia items are produced in equitable and safe working conditions.
The task force, headed by Jeremy Paul, professor of law and associate dean for academic affairs, will develop recommendations by March for steps the University can take to ensure that goods produced by manufacturers licensed by the University meet those standards.
In addition, the task force will consider whether or not the University should join the Fair Labor Association (FLA), a government-s ponsored coalition of manufacturers, labor, human rights and advocacy groups.
"We will determine if there is a problem, the extent of the problem, and what best to do about the problem," Paul says.
Students at various colleges around the nation, including UConn, have raised the issue of whether or not manufacturers of licensed clothing and products are producing items in foreign countries using workers who are not properly paid or are working under poor conditions.
"Nationwide, there has been consciousness raising on this issue," Paul said.
UConn, and a number of other universities, did not join the FLA last spring because of concerns that a draft code of conduct and the monitoring system proposed by the FLA were inadequate. The task force will review a new draft, developed by the FLA in June, to determine whether or not it is adequate and will make a recommendation about whether or not the University should now consider membership in the FLA.
Many student groups have criticized the FLA as too weak to get the job done. Last week, students nationwide formed a group competing with the FLA, called the Workers' Rights Consortium.
UConn has a contractual relationship with the Collegiate Licensing Company, which polices production of items to ensure that UConn screens the design of insignia items before production and to ensure that licensing fees are paid to the University on merchandise that uses UConn's name and logos. That organization attempted last year to develop a code of conduct, but could not develop a consensus among member institutions.
But no matter what code of conduct is adopted, Austin said, the University "has made clear our position that there is a need for effective standards and monitoring of workplace sites."
Austin said the University must have assurances that workers are receiving a living wage and that safeguards are in place for workers' health and safety and the special needs of women workers.
Austin said the University will require no later than May that each of UConn's licensed manufacturers disclose to the University every six months information identifying each factory used to produce items that include UConn marks.
"The sale of goods bearing the UConn mark generates funds important to the University and its students, fosters a sense of community spirit and promotes our national identity. It is essential that in production of those goods the University use its influence and economic power to promote fundamental concepts of workplace equity," Austin said.
Paul said "President Austin has made clear in his charge that he wants us to consider the efficacy and feasibility of all reasonable steps the University could take. Members of the task force will undertake to educate ourselves concerning all responsible efforts by students and others to broaden the options available for achieving the University's objectives."
Members of the task force, in addition to Paul, are two students, Catherine Harnois and Donald Branson; Paul Shapiro, the assistant attorney general assigned to UConn; Timothy Tolokan, associate director of athletics for communications; William Alpert, associate professor of economics; and Judith Meagher, professor and associate dean of education.
Karen A. Grava