OpenCalais Metadata: Latitude: 
OpenCalais Metadata: Longitude: 
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Students from two different organizations gathered at the Main Mall on Wednesday to protest the University’s involvement with a company known for using sweatshop labor.

Demonstrators sang altered Christmas carols to passing students to reflect their frustration with UT and an apparel company named VF Corporation, which produces clothing for brands such as Vans, Wrangler, The North Face and JanSport. The groups sang at their protest, “Jingle bells, VF smells, Powers get a clue.”

Amanda Dal, human development and family sciences and psychology junior, said the goal of the demonstration was to encourage the administration to find a more ethical apparels supplier.

“Several students who are a part of ‘United Students Against Sweatshops,’ as well as the ‘Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition,’ are here today calling on the University, particularly President Powers, to drop their relationship with VF Corporation, who is the umbrella corporation of a lot of really well-known brands,” Dal said. “VF has refused to sign on to the Accord on Building and Fire Safety, which upholds the safety of workers in Bangladesh that are producing clothing and garments.”

In addition to the demonstration, the group sent members to deliver a message to President William Powers Jr.’s office. Dal said this would be the third letter sent to Powers this semester, and, though they have received a response to the first two, Powers has yet to meet with students regarding the issue.

According to UT spokesman Gary Susswein, Powers already sent a letter to Douglas Parker, brand director of new business development for VF Licensed Sports Group, on Nov. 14 encouraging the corporation to sign the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.

“In the wake of several large-scale garment industry disasters that have occurred in Bangladesh these last two years, I can appreciate the issues that [United Students Against Sweatshops] seeks to remedy,” Powers said in the letter.

Franchesca Caraballo, social work and history junior, said the University’s affiliations must meet the high standard set by the student body as a community.

“I believe that if we want our students and faculty to uphold a certain standard of ethics, that we should demand the same of companies that we do business with,” Caraballo said.

Ethics studies senior Petro On said the protestors want to enlighten students about how some of their favorite brands are produced.

“I think, right now, students need to be more aware about where their apparel is coming from,” On said. “I don’t think a lot of students want to be wearing clothes that are sweatshop-made, but, as of right now, VF, as a company, has done a really good job about hiding all of that information from students.”

Caraballo cited the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed and wounded thousands of workers in Bangladesh in 2013 as a reason to withdraw support from companies that endanger their workers.

“The sad thing is that it was completely preventable,” Caraballo said. “There was no oversight, no inspections or anything done to ensure the safety of workers. It was negligence on the side of these corporations.”

Rafat Yazdani and Fariha Hossain, members of The Bengali Students Association, display the flag of Bangladesh on the steps of the West Mall.  The Bengali Students Association was celebrating International Mother Language Day, which commemorates those who lost their lives in Bangladesh fighting for their language.

Photo Credit: Gabriella Belzer | Daily Texan Staff

Members of the UT Bengali Students Association distributed pamphlets to students Thursday explaining the significance and history of International Mother Language Day, which raises awareness of the various languages throughout the world.

“It’s important everybody realizes that Bangladeshis fought for their language and everybody deserves the same,” electrical engineering junior Pulok Khan said. 

Behind the students stood a model of a monument known as the Shahid Minar, which features five pillars with a red circle hanging on the middle pillar. Khan, a member of the association, said the monument represents the five students killed at Dhaka University on Feb. 21, 1952, at a time when Bangladesh was under the control of Pakistan and was known as East Pakistan. 

Khan said the students were killed by police while protesting for the right to speak their native Bengali language instead of being forced to speak Urdu. The civil unrest that followed their deaths forced the Pakistani government to recognize the Bengali language as an official language in 1956. 

In November 1999, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization proclaimed Feb. 21 as International Mother Language Day in honor of the students’ deaths. Since then the day has been recognized every year as a time to increase awareness for the preservation and protection of languages and to celebrate the global diversity of languages. 

“[Languages are] important to any individual because it provides a background for them,” Khan said. “It’s a good way for people to express themselves. I think that’s important.”

Linguistics junior Brittany Weinstein said knowing languages provides vast advantages for students, such as better cognitive thinking.

“I think language is definitely a big thing to celebrate,” Weinstein said. “It’s part of someone’s identity.”

Economics and mathematics senior Orthi Rabbane said she joined the Bengali Students Association her sophomore year because she thought it was a great way to show her Bengali identity to a diverse student body.

“I liked the idea of helping put on events and explaining to the UT body about our culture,” Rabbane said. “It’s one aspect of culture that defines everyone — the way we communicate.”

Rabbane said the association organizes one cultural event on campus each semester. The event for this spring semester is the International Mother Language Day Memorial Event, which will be held Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Student Activity Center

Rabbane said the event will feature poetry and singing in Bengali as well as a screening of the movie “Amar Bondhu Rashed,” or “My Friend Rashed,” which is based on the liberation war which transformed East Pakistan into modern-day Bangladesh. The memorial event is free and open to the public.

Published on February 22, 2013 as "Bengali students celebrate language". 

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Wal-Mart says a Bangladesh garment factory that caught fire Saturday killing 112 people had previously produced merchandise for the retailer without its permission.

Wal-Mart said that one of the company’s suppliers had contracted work out to the factory without authorization and in violation of Wal-Mart policies. The company said it terminated its relationship with the supplier Monday.

A Wal-Mart spokesman would not comment on how recently the plant manufactured Wal-Mart clothes. Earlier, the retailer said it could not confirm whether it had an active relationship with the factory.

DHAKA, Bangladesh — A government official says Bangladesh and Russia have signed a cooperation deal to build a nuclear power plant in the energy-starved South Asian nation.

Bangladesh’s junior Science and Technology Minister Yeafesh Osman says he and Russia’s Rosatom State Corporation Director-General Sergei Kiriyenko signed the agreement on Wednesday for the nation’s first such plant at Rooppur in Pabna district, 75 miles north of the capital, Dhaka.

Bangladesh now relies on decades-old gas-fired power plants and suffers a daily shortfall of about 2,000 megawatts that is blamed for hampering industrial production and economic growth.