Meeting with president's office to resolve sweatshop conflicts delayed

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The University attempted to arrange a Monday meeting with the student-led Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition but prohibited coalition supporters from entering the president’s office Tuesday.

At 10 p.m. on April 20, Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly called coalition member Carson Chavana, a geography senior who was not arrested last Wednesday, to set up a Monday meeting between her and President William Powers Jr., Chavana said.

The coalition agreed to the meeting on the condition that coalition leaders William Yates, an Asian Studies senior, and Bianca Hinz-Foley, a former student, be present, said Yates. Both Yates and Hinz Foley were arrested during last week’s sit-in, along with 16 others who refused to leave the building at 5 p.m.

“When a fair, democratic meeting that allows for appropriate representation and that does not have a preset agenda is offered on behalf of the administration, we, the Make UT Sweatshop-Free coalition, will be more than happy to accept,” Chavana said.

The President’s office refused to meet with Yates and Hinz-Foley because they do not want to encourage criminal behavior, said UT spokesman Gary Susswein.

“[Chavana] initially indicated a willingness to meet with President Powers but has since rejected the invitation, instead offering to meet President Powers off site, as part of larger group that includes a politician, union leader, the recently-arrested students and others, and only in the context of what she called ‘serious negotiations,’” Susswein said.

Yates said the administration was trying to rush a meeting so that they could claim to have met with the students and sweep the sweatshop controversy under the rug. Yates said Chavana alone could not represent the broad coalition or provide the President with in-depth information regarding conditions at factories producing UT apparel.

“The meeting would have been a sham,” Yates said.

Susswein said he was confused by the response to the proposed meeting because the group has been demanding a meeting with the president for over a year. The offer to meet with the President still stands and could be arranged for a later date, he said.

Susswein said the administration decided to lock the President’s office because of security concerns and to prevent further disruption of office staff.

Yates said the Tuesday lockout was indicative of the University’s larger response to the coalition’s message.

“This is really evident of how [the administration] is not ready to meet on this and how they are not taking students seriously,” Yates said.