I’ve written recently regarding Alta Gracia shirts being introduced to stores now in an innovative cooperative agreement between Students Against Sweatshops, the Workers Rights Consortium and Knights Apparel. Workers at the Alta Gracia factory in the Dominican Republic are fully unionized, are being paid a living wage 338% of the minimum wage plus an array of bonuses and benefits, and are subject to a transparent and frequent independent inspection system with regular reports to ensure compliance.
The very existence of the Alta Gracia shirts is proof that apparel producers don’t have to run sweatshops in order to turn a profit. But the success of the Alta Gracia shirts as a brand in the long run would send an even stronger message, that there is no excuse for any apparel producer to use sweatshops any longer. If you have a few extra bucks, I strongly urge you to buy an Alta Gracia shirt from the school you attend (or graduated from) today. Click here to find out if your school sells Alta Gracia shirts.
Let’s make the issue larger than your individual purchase. Is it reasonable for the best universities in the country to make sure at least one of their collegiate-branded shirts isn’t soaked in worker exploitation? I’d say so. Students who want to express pride in their school should be able to make at least one sweat-free choice. As a matter of fact, you might call it a test of a university’s moral environment to see whether or not the university has decided to offer the Alta Gracia shirt or just continue making money in its shops off the same old low-wage status quo.
U.S. News and World Report is famous for its ranking of American national universities. Let’s enrich those rankings a bit by considering which of the 25 top-ranked national universities are selling the Alta Gracia shirt:
|US News Rank||University||Selling Alta Gracia Shirts?|
|1||Harvard University||Yes||(not sold online)|
|3||Yale University||Yes||(not sold online)|
|4||Columbia University||Yes||(shop online here)|
|5||Stanford University||Not yet||(coming in September)|
|6||University of Pennsylvania||Yes||(shop online here)|
|7||California Institute of Technology||No|
|7||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Yes||(not sold online)|
|9||Dartmouth College||Yes||(shop online here)|
|9||Duke University||Yes||(shop online here)|
|9||University of Chicago||Yes||(shop online here)|
|12||Northwestern University||Yes||(shop online here)|
|13||Johns Hopkins University||Yes||(shop online here)|
|13||Washington University in St. Louis||Yes||(shop online here)|
|15||Cornell University||Yes||(not sold online)|
|17||Rice University||Yes||(shop online here)|
|17||Vanderbilt University||Not yet||(coming in September)|
|19||University of Notre Dame||Not yet||(coming in September)|
|20||Emory University||Yes||(shop online here)|
|21||Georgetown University||Yes||(shop online here)|
|22||University of California, Berkeley||Not yet||(coming in September)|
|23||Carnegie Mellon University||No|
|23||University of Southern California||No|
|25||University of California, Los Angeles||Not yet||(coming in November)|
Overall, the results are heartening. 15 of the 25 top-ranked universities are selling Alta Gracia shirts right now. 5 more of these universities have plans to start selling Alta Gracia shirts before the end of the year. Only 5 of these schools are sluggards, falling into the morally dullard position of neither selling the Alta Gracia shirts nor even planning to offer the choice of such shirts to interested students and alumni.
The moral dullards in the set are:
Brown University. Call the Brown University bookstore at 401-863-3168 (in-state) or 1-800-695-2050 (toll free) and ask when they plan to add Alta Gracia shirts. Contact Brown University president Ruth J. Simmons at 401-863-2234 (phone), 401-863-7737 (fax), or firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest as a student or alum in seeing Alta Gracia shirts come to Brown.
California Institute of Technology. These people are smart; surely they can find a way to fit one more shirt in the bookstore. Call the bookstore at 626-395-6161. Contact CalTech president Jean-Lou Chameau by phone (626-395-6301) or fax (626-449-9374).
Carnegie Mellon University. Agitate, CMU students and alums. Click here to send an online message to the Carnegie Mellon Bookstore about Alta Gracia shirts. Click here to let CMU President Jared Cohon know he’s falling behind his competitor universities.
Princeton University. Those sure are some nice stone buildings, Princeton, but you can’t keep up the snob act when you’re falling behind your peer institutions. Suck it up and get to it, young princes and princesses: start making comments on the Princeton University Store blog, start calling the PU Store at 1-800-624-4236, and start asking Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman when she plans to catch up (phone: 609-258-6100; fax: 609-258-1615).