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Voices on China policy

| Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Last October, the student body received an email from University President Fr. John Jenkins announcing significant changes to the “Freedom of Association” policy. The original policy stipulated, “Notre Dame licensed products [could not] be manufactured in countries lacking a legal right for workers to organize and form independent labor unions of their own choosing.” China was by far the largest and most significant of the countries precluded from manufacturing under this policy, leading to policy’s colloquial name of the “China policy.”

In his October communication, Jenkins noted the University would be moving forward with a pilot program in China. A small number of factories assessed by the University and Verité, an independent labor rights nonprofit, were allowed to begin production. These assessments were done based upon the degree of worker participation, “as represented by 71 different criteria, meant to measure worker rights traditionally protected by freedom of association.” Upon the suggestion of the Notre Dame community, Verité has also assessed factories in countries in which Notre Dame has already manufactured licensed goods.

One of the recommendations approved by Jenkins called for “a forum for continuing campus participation and feedback, including the establishment of a student subcommittee to the Worker Participation Committee.” After seeing this recommendation, a group of students who had been following the issue united to form the Student Worker Participation Committee (SWPC) to fulfill this role. The proposal, drafted by the SWPC and approved by Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves, brings together various student organizations, from the Student International Business Council to the Progressive Student Alliance to the Undergraduate Student Government and Graduate Student Unions. Altogether, nine student organizations have a permanent seat on the student subcommittee, with four “Open Academic Positions” filled by application.

The SWPC is dedicated to providing a critical and informed voice to guide the administration’s discussion of this policy, keeping the student body as informed as possible and ensuring the voices of all concerned students are heard. To reach every student who wishes to have a voice, we will provide forums for feedback from the community, including a town hall meeting Wednesday, April 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the Geddes Hall Coffeehouse.

If you would like to send questions or feedback directly to us at any time, message the Notre Dame Student Worker Participation Committee page on Facebook, which you can also follow for updates on the policy and related events. If you feel strongly, submit your own Letters to the Editor so the debate remains open and accessible. Finally, while applications are closed for this year, you can stay engaged and apply for an Open Academic Position on the committee next spring. Your lively engagement will be invaluable as we work with University leaders to craft a path forward that is open to emerging global markets, but grounded in the Catholic traditions of respect for human dignity and the dignity of work.

Bryan Ricketts, Chairman
Student Government

Matthew Caponigro, Secretary
Open Academic Position

Skyler Hughes
Progressive Student Alliance

Devon Roura
Student International Business Council

Julie Mardini
Higgins Labor Studies Program

Samuel Cho
Diversity Council

Niko Porter
Human Rights ND

Craig Iffland
Graduate Student Union

Lauren Nottoli
Student Bar Association

Alex Arnold
Open Academic Position

Hannah O’Brien
Open Academic Position

Madeline Inglis
Open Academic Position

Clara Yang
Open Academic Position

Yuchen Zou
Open Academic Position

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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