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Hamilton, Oberlin, Vassar and Wesleyan Lead Colleges on Sweatshop-Free Front

Alta Gracia brand shirts are unique in the world of collegiate gear for their transparently ethical production. They aren’t made in the USA, and in fact are made in the Dominican Republic, which in the past has signified sweatshop production. But Alta Gracia shirts are made under an arrangement between student activists, rigorous independent inspectors and Knights Apparel to provide a living wage of 338% minimum wage (based on an independent market basket analysis) plus a variety of other worker benefits and protections (see here for documentation).

The Alta Gracia line of shirts has been made available for colleges and universities across the United States to sell collegiate-branded apparel, starting right now. Last week we learned that an encouraging 20 out of the 25 top-ranked national universities in the USA either are selling Alta Gracia shirts right now or are scheduled to begin sales within the next month or so. But the rate of adoption among America’s top 25 ranked liberal arts colleges is not nearly as high. Of the 25 liberal arts colleges most highly ranked by US News & World Report, only 4 colleges are offering Alta Gracia shirts for sale now: Hamilton College, Oberlin College, Vassar College and Wesleyan University. These institutions are the leaders in their class and deserve congratulation. None of the remaining 21 top liberal arts colleges have even made a commitment to sell Alta Gracia shirts, not even reputedly lefty colleges in the list like Amherst, Carleton, Grinnell, Smith or Wellesley.

In the collegiate world, there is constant chatter by administrators about what is and isn’t being done at “competitor colleges” as presidents and their staffs chart out strategic plans in attempts to get ahead of the competition. If you care (as a student, a professor, an alumnus or even a “townie”) about treatment of workers who provide the economic basis for college education, and if you find your prestigious institution’s name in the “NO” list, then take a trip to the college president’s office and let him or her know how the school can do better…

… and if you’re a local member of Students Against Sweatshops, get ready to raise a little ruckus.

Honor Roll: Liberal Arts Colleges in the US News Top 25 who are offering Alta Gracia shirts for sale
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Hamilton College
Oberlin College
Vassar College
Wesleyan University
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Laggards: Liberal Arts Colleges in the US News Top 25 who are not selling Alta Gracia shirts and have no public plan to add Alta Gracia Shirts to their collegiate shops
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Amherst College
Bates College
Bowdoin College
Carleton College
Claremont McKenna College
Colby College
Colgate University
Davidson College
Grinnell College
Harvey Mudd College
Haverford College
Middlebury College
Pomona College
Scripps College
Smith College
Swarthmore College
US Military Academy
US Naval Academy
Washington and Lee University
Wellesley College
Williams College
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3 comments to Hamilton, Oberlin, Vassar and Wesleyan Lead Colleges on Sweatshop-Free Front

  • As a graduate of Grinnell college, I’m disappointed in my old school.

  • Jim

    New Grinnell President Raynard S. Kingston began his term on August 1. Give him a call at 641-269-4000 and let him know about this great way top start off his presidency.

  • Speaking as soon-to-be apparel and soft goods buyer for the Grinnell College Bookstore (effective September 1, 2010), we are familiar with Alta Gracia. We are currently reviewing this new (to us) line of apparel. Our contact information is in the Alta Gracia system, and we are awaiting a full catalog from the manufacturer.

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