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USAS grades university on transparency, accountability

Kristen Mitchell / Senior Lantern reporter

The university was issued a grade card and it failed every subject.

Members of the United Students Against Sweatshops marched from the Oval to President E. Gordon Gee’s office in Bricker Hall Wednesday afternoon to present him with a report card grading the university in math, accountability, transparency and its ability to play with others.

“They grade us, and now it’s time to take a step back and for us to grade you on your ethicalness,” said Danya Contractor, a first-year in international studies and USAS member.

Contractor said students were on the Oval to “protest the sale of our university.”

The students advocated against the privatization of parking and proposed apparel deals with the Dallas Cowboys Silver Star Merchandising Line, and the grade card reflected their thoughts on these business initiatives.

USAS argues that Silver Star Merchandising mistreats its sweatshop laborers, and OSU should not enter an agreement with Silver Star. USAS also argues that it is unfair to the 124 companies who have contracts with OSU, and the deal with Silver Star could possibly hurt these companies financially.

Repeated attempts to contact Silver Star over the year have been unsuccessful.

The university is considering a proposal to privatize parking. The deal would include selling its parking to a third-party vendor for an up-front, one-time cost of at least $375 million.

Contractor said the university will lose money on privatized parking and that students will pay more for apparel if OSU makes a deal with the Silver Star Merchandising, resulting in a failing grade in math. She also said OSU has not been accountable to students, faculty and workers and has not listened to their feedback regarding either issue.

The group said the university failed in its ability to play well with others, citing that the administration cares more about profit than supporting local business and the Columbus community at large, as well as in transparency due to “back-door deals with sweatshop users.”

“I want to know where my shirt that says ‘Buckeyes’ is coming from. I want to know if a girl in Cambodia was sewing it for 19 hours,” Contractor said.

A small crowd of students marched to Bricker Hall to find that Gee was not in his office, and that he would be out for the rest of the week. They presented their report card and their reasoning for the low grades to Julie Anstine, administrative director and assistant to the president.

Shukri Farah, a second-year in international studies, said she hopes the report card will spark change in how the university handles business decisions in the future.

“I don’t want them to hand out a decision,” Farah said.

Farah said she would like to see the administration actively listen to students and faculty before it makes any business deals with outside corporations.

“I would like to see an email from Gordon Gee telling us what’s going on and asking for student feedback,” Farah said.

University officials said they encourage comments on actions of the university.

“The university has been engaged with USAS representatives and has been having good conversations with them about their concerns,” said Jim Lynch, university spokesman. “We are hopeful that our continued dialogue with them will help us advance the broader issues of how to continue to improve social responsibility programming.”

USAS has organized several protests this academic year regarding the Silver Star deal, but this is the first rally concerning the privatization of parking. Contractor said people shouldn’t ignore the price increases agreed upon in the contract and other possible consequences of selling parking rights to a private company.

“You can say, ‘Oh, it’ll never come to that,'” Contractor said. “But why would we want to give away the power?”


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