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Student group brings Gee cake; Ohio State apparel deal undecided

Liz Young / Lantern reporter

United Students Against Sweatshops protested Ohio State’s potential monopoly apparel contract with Dallas Cowboys’ Silver Star Merchandising Friday at 2:15 p.m. in Bricker Hall.

A group of about 10 students walked into President E. Gordon Gee’s office with a cake, offering it to him as a celebration for “doing the right thing” and turning down the deal with Silver Star Merchandising, a company accused of using sweatshop labor to produce their apparel.

The group said the visit was intended to be sarcastic, but resulted in the them getting to speak with Gee for the first time since their campaign against the deal started in June 2011.

The students used the recent end to a contract between Cornell University and Adidas due to its treatment of overseas workers as a reason why OSU should not draw up a contract with Silver Star.

Gee, however, made no promises to end the talks.

“I’ve been through this on a number of occasions at Brown and Vanderbilt, at Ohio State the first time … (and) on corporate boards who have looked at this, and it’s not an issue of which I’m unfamiliar,” Gee said. “All I’ll say is it’s complex because … I visited factories in China and other places and when I was on the board of Limited, because you know they’re very concerned about human rights, and as a member of that board I wanted to make sure that I understood what was going on. So anyway, I appreciate it and I appreciate the cake.”

The students present questioned whether there was a reason to celebrate if Gee was not ready to say that OSU would not accept the deal.

“But we do have a reason to celebrate, don’t we?” said Danya Contractor, a second-year in geography.

“What I said the celebration was was that you guys came over and had a chance to chat with me,” Gee replied. “I want to emphasize that, you know, there are so many given elements of this that there is no clear cut answer to any of these issues and so we’ll do what’s right for the university, and that’s my goal, that’s my expectation, and that’s what we will do.”

Even without the answer they were looking for, members of USAS said they were happy with the protest.

“This is actually the first time that we’ve been able to speak with Gee personally, so I do feel that it was a small stride in the right direction, but there’s obviously still a lot more work to do,” said Courtney Skaggs, a third-year in English, linguistics, and women’s gender and sexuality studies.

Jim Lynch, a university spokesman, told The Lantern in January that OSU had been talking to license apparel companies, including Silver Star Merchandising, about an exclusive apparel model.

There is no known date for when a decision about the deal will be made. USAS is scheduled to meet with some of the deal administrators on Monday. 

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