Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Hoya: Legal, Moral, and Practical

Here is my first article for the school paper, The Hoya. Published twice a week in print, and continuously online, it has been running sine 1920.  You can see the actual version of the article here. It was a eye-opening experience working on this as my first story; both the ethical questions involved and the shear ease of access I could get, as a freshman, to senior members of the administration.

GU Delays Decision on Adidas Violation

    Nearly five months after Adidas violated the Code of Conduct for Georgetown University Licensees, the university has yet to take formal action against the company.
    In an effort to renew awareness about the issue, the Georgetown Solidarity Committee submitted an open letter to University President John J. DeGioia on Friday demanding that the university enforce its code by dissolving its contract with Adidas.
    According to a report from the Worker Rights Consortium, a group that advocates for decent working conditions, Adidas failed to pay severance fees to workers after the PT Kizone plant in Indonesia — which manufactures Georgetown apparel — closed last year.

    At the time of submission, the letter had 172 signatures from graduate students, alumni and members of the Georgetown University Student Association — 40 from a petition posted online and 132 gathered by GSC members in Red Square.
    “Adidas … is in direct violation of the Georgetown University Code of Conduct for Licensees,” read the letter, which was posted on last Monday. “Upon the closing of the factory … Adidas refused to pay the workers their severance, … violating the clause in the Code of Conduct stating that licensees are required to ‘[pay] all applicable back wages, or any portion of them, found due to workers who manufactured the licensed articles.’”
    According to United Students Against Sweatshops, a national student organization that organizes and runs student-labor solidarity campaigns to improve working conditions, Adidas owes $1.8 million in back wages to its workers at the plant.
    “Adidas is trying to avoid paying the money to avoid setting a precedent to pay back wages in the future,” GSC member Julia Hubbell (COL ’15) said.

    Although the university recognizes the validity of the Worker Rights Consortium’s claims, which first arose in January, the university has not taken action on the issue.
    Scheduling difficulties have delayed the university’s decision, according to Associate Vice President for Federal Relations Scott Fleming. The Licensing Oversight Committee, which oversees Georgetown’s contracts with apparel companies, including Adidas, and comprises students and administrators, has been unable to arrange a meeting with all of its members up to this point but plans to convene Oct. 10.
   “The PT Kizone item is already on the agenda,” Fleming said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if a recommendation comes out of the meeting.”
   The committee had complained to Adidas about the issue after the report was released, according to LOC member William Skolnik (MSB ’13), but the problem has not been solved.
    “We complained directly to this company and communicated with them,” Skolnik said. “Currently, the situation has not been resolved.”

    Students at other schools that work with Adidas, including Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have also expressed concerns about the apparel company’s labor standards.
    Cornell terminated its contract with Adidas on Sept. 13 because of the company’s failure to pay its workers, according to an article published in Cornell’s in-house weekly newspaper, Cornell Chronicle, on Sept. 17.
    Meanwhile, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents asked a court to determine whether Adidas met its contract, according to an article published on the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s website on July 13.

    Fleming, however, suggested that cutting all ties is not the only option for Georgetown. “We’re committed to ending sweatshops,” Fleming said. “The question is how best to do that. Is it better to cut our relationship with them or maintain contact and talk them into doing the right thing?”
    Hubbell said that the breach of contract also has moral as well as legal implications. “It’s more than a legal issue. It’s a justice one,” Hubbell said. “As a Jesuit university, we want our interactions with the world to exemplify how Christ would have lived.”
    Another member of GSC, Erin Riordian (COL ’15), echoed Hubbell’s sentiments. “It’s incredibly important for Georgetown University to live up to its Jesuit values, and Georgetown should stand up for the rights of the workers,” she said.

    According to Skolnik, however, how the LOC addresses the issue will depend on a variety of considerations. “As with most decisions, there are trade-offs, and the decision-maker must look at a multitude of factors, such as the economic, practical and ethical implications of policy decisions,” he said.

    But Hubbell said she believes that the moral implications should outweigh all others. “Georgetown can be a leader and take a moral stand and show the world that we have values and we will stand by them,” she said.

Monday, September 24, 2012

History, Not Histrionics

A need to understand
The long melancholy drone of the
Aircraft approaching, shadow racing quickly across the ground
No one looks up, passing miracles draw
no notice
A buzz and a ring
Hands go to pockets, one lucky winner
The rest curse the inconvenient magic black box
That opens infinite gateways
Meanwhile, polemic's pen replaced
Keys spit the hypocrite's fire

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Endless Education

If the world was like history class, it would be 90% male.

Nobody intends to be a teacher their whole life. But those teachers have the deepest, most profound influence on us; second only to our parents. There is some value to education beyond getting a job or a degree or set of letters behind your time.

I stand on the shoulders of giants.

A true education is immeasurable. It sinks to the deepest part of your soul and fundamentally augments who you are. A true teacher forms a bond with a student that transcends time. And while you might leave their class, move on to other rooms, other lessons, their is always the possessive. My teacher. She was my teacher.

You get this piece of knowledge, put a bit of your soul into it, and pass it on to someone else.

Education doesn't stop. Ever. But neither is it a continuous process. A effortless soaking in of life-altering information. It requires effort, concentration, conscious effort.

The purpose of history is to make you wise beyond your years.

The thing about history is that it isn't a science. We want science because science has answers that we can agree on, because there is math that backs it up. The answers that come in science don't say anything about us. But the way we look at history reveals to the world the most secret parts of ourselves. The bias we hid from everyone but ourselves, the true passion kept locked up for years, the desire for something beyond us. And that is scary. So we hide behind "dispassionate scholarship," so what is real is distanced from us.

The first time you realize that your parents aren't these guardians but actual people that you realize death is possible.

The best part about history is it connects you intimately with humanity. Gifted with glimpses into the souls of those who came before us. If we can appreciate that, history allows us to open up the wellspring of emotions that connects all people. It sounds sappy (and it is) but it's a wonderful way to conceive the study of history.

There is no barring accidents, history's just one fucking thing after another.

Aside: I'm not really sure where this came from. It's entirely incoherent, my apologies for that. Some of the quotes make sense. Most don't. Again, sorry about that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pink Eye

Two hours at Student Health
Two rehearsals missed
Two drops every
Two hours for the next
Two days

Monday, September 17, 2012

Introduce Yourself

Every moment we make a stand
We define our selves
The choices we make in these few crucial weeks
These few, short, crucial weeks
Ripple down into a future, undeclared
An early lunch sparks a friendship
Eternal, a missed dinner calls for cookies
As you struggle to figure out
"Who you are"
"You" are being built, piece by piece
Choice by choice
The words that tumble out
When "Introduce yourself" is laid at your feet
Say more than you know
So please, introduce yourself.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

History and Art and History of Art recently began working on a show, called History Boys, that deals with, well, history. More specifically, history being taught to high school boys in 1980s England as they prepare to take their college entrance examinations. Aside from the hilarious history jokes (yes, they do exist), the play asks countless questions about the teaching and understanding history. One question that was posed at last night's rehearsal and today in class as well (what a coincidence) is about the relationship between art and context. Can art be put in context, and from that explained, or can it only be examined as art and not put "in other words."

Is there an answer? Does it actually matter? Working on this show has prompted me to think a lot about the nature of history and education. I feel a series coming on...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

College Cliches Addressed

Being a good neighbor has slightly
different meanings in college.
As you can probably imagine, these first two weeks of college have been a tornado of events and classes and homework and sleeping. I've barely had time to get all of my work done, let alone sit down and write for fun. But I managed to complete (almost) all of my homework during two 3 hours marathons this weekend so I have an entire, uninterrupted, 20-minute span to fill with something. Not quite long enough for a nap, so writing is the next best thing. I would like to take a few minutes and discuss several aspects of the college experience:

1) The food is awful…?
This one is tough. You hear a lot from upperclassmen about how much Leo's (the dinning hall) has horrible food. And some items (the eggs, for example) definitely fit the bill. But most of the food is of decent quality, at least. The real issue with college food is it's monotonous. With only one dinning hall on campus, food options are very limited. And after a week and a half or so the meals start to get boring. A special effort is required to keep lunch and dinner (one is never awake for breakfast) interesting.

2) Campus is really pretty.
Yes, the parts that the tours see are incredibly beautiful. The Neo-Gothic stonework and finely manicured lawns compliment each other masterfully. But the walk from your dorm to the dinning hall (made four times a day, at least) is dominated by the construction going on at several locations throughout campus. The wide-eyed prospective students see Healy Hall, you see 4 dumpsters. It's not all gloom; when the weather is nice (like today) you can go sit out on the front lawn with your friends and your homework and have a wonderful time.

The front of campus.
Not the front of campus.

3) You make friends with everyone on your floor.
Most definitely. Two suggestions to make it easier: keep your door open whenever possible and visit the common room often.

4) Do your homework.
This one is obvious, but comes with a warning you don't really think you'll need before you arrive: find somewhere where you can actually do your work. If you need people around, the busy common room is a great place. If you need peace, don't study there no matter how social you want to be. If you need to leave your dorm, the library is a great place to go. If there's a business school on campus, odds are its building has great study spaces. If you aren't in the business school, pretend you are anywhere. It's totally worth it.