from The Daily Cardinal Friday, November 18, 2005

Fake profile trashes Wiley, UW policy on labor

Jamie Thomas

photo credit: Nathan Arnold/ The Daily Cardinal

Many UW-Madison students opened their e-mail Thursday morning to find a Facebook friend request from Chancellor John Wiley. The link led them to a mock profile engineered by the Student Labor Action Coalition as a statement against Wiley's criticism of its anti-sweatshop proposal. At the bottom of the profile was a disclaimer announcing the profile, like Wiley's stance on sweatshops, was "an offensive joke."

Nevertheless, university officials stressed late Thursday afternoon they have taken steps to research the feasibility of that proposal, introduced by the United Students Against Sweatshops.

The USAS proposal is a national effort to secure a living wage for overseas factory workers as well as the right to form unions, according to Dawn Crim, assistant to the director of Community Relations in the Chancellor's Office and consultant to the Labor Licensing Policy Committee.

UW-Madison licenses companies to manufacture items bearing the university logo. These companies are contractually obligated to follow a "Code of Conduct" which governs how they treat workers. UW-Madison pays the Worker Rights Consortium to uphold these standards. The WRC investigates complaints made by workers, and generally does not make unprompted trips to factories.

The university wants to communicate to students that it does hold its licensees to certain standards.

Crim said in August she visited the headquarters for Adidas, one of UW-Madison's licensed companies. There, she was able to ask questions on behalf of the university regarding Adidas' factory practices.

"I came back with actual monitoring documents," Crim said.

According Cindy Van Matre, UW-Madison's trademark licensing director and LLPC member, UW-Madison ended its contract with Land's End in 2004 because the WRC found labor violations in a factory.

But, UW-Madison junior and SLAC member Ashok Kumar said the Chancellor has been the only one not in compliance with the proposal. Kumar posted a message on Wiley's faux Facebook profile Thursday that read, "U smell like poo."

"I was joking, obviously," Kumar said. "I'm sure he doesn't smell like poo. But it's the Facebook. I mean, you say funny things." The comment was removed later in the evening.

University officials, who perhaps do not find the matter so funny, refused to react to the mock profile.

"We realize people have the right to exercise their free speech," Crim said. "We're just not going to spend any energy on that. We're just going to stay on the issues."

UW-Madison sophomore and SLAC member John Bruning claimed responsibility on behalf of SLAC for both the profile and the 1,500 yellow and pink fliers that encouraged students to friend "Wiley." He added that SLAC did not use student organization funding for the campaign. "It was funded by individuals," he said.

As of press time, the mock profile boasted nearly 1,500 friends at Wisconsin.

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Anti-sweatshop page