Monday, July 23, 2007
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
CU. be Micbt*oan D
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Contract offers 'U' little incentive to monitor labor standards
EDITOR IN CHIEF
EDITORIAL PAGE EDI-
Unsignedleditorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. A1 other
signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
A bankrupt future
Tuition hike hands state's bill to students
Last Thursday, the University Board of Regents
announced that students would pay the price for
the state's incompetence - literally. That price is
a 7.4 percent tuition increase, which will supplement the
University's slashed state funding. Despite Michigan's
dire need for a stronger future, Lansing is slowly bank-
rupting that hope by bankrupting its students.
t seems too good to be true:
The University makes a
windfall profit by con-
tracting out its athletic appar-
el to Adidas while it appears
socially conscious by adding in a
clause that it can investigate the
company's labor practices. But
everything looks better on paper.
While the University's new con-
tract may seem like the perfect
solution to labor abuses that
plagued the previous contract
with Nike, it will require the
University to take a pro-active
approach to prevent these viola-
tions - something it has every
incentive not to do.
Since 1994, the honor of pro-
ducingmaize andblue jerseyshas
belonged to Nike, a company crit-
icized for its use of sweatshops.
However, when Adidas made an
offer that Nike refused to match,
Athletic Director Bill Martin and
the Athletic Department made
the switch, tantalized by the $7.5
million a year stipulated by the
eight-year contract. In addition
to doubling Nike's previous deal,
Adidas also offered the Univer-
sity more input into the design
process and the ability to moni-
tor its labor standards.
There's not much to dislike
about the money. After all, it will
fund much-needed renovations
to Crisler Arena and help the
Athletic Department continue
to be self-sufficient. But beyond
the solely beneficial appearance
of the contract with Adidas, it's
clear that the deal offers the Uni-
versity no incentive to monitor
the company's labor standards
- other than the potential for a
While the University's desire
for more transparency on the
labor issue is commendable, the
terms of the Adidas contract
hardly assure that sweatshops
will disappear. If the University
decides to investigate the com-
pany's working conditions now,
it runs the risk of finding viola-
tions. That would put it in the
uncomfortable position of either
havingto denounce the company
and lose its lucrative contract or
facing a firestorm of public criti-
cism. Thus, the University's best
refuge may well be ignorance.
Unfortunately, this problem is
indicative of a broader problem:
College sports have become so
commercialized that the con-
cept of losing such an attractive
deal would make any university
think twice about being socially
responsible. In orderto stay com-
petitive with other schools and
bringin revenue forbuildingren-
ovations and scholarships, the
University must take the money.
But contributing to the global
matter the justification. The Uni-
versity has a social obligation to
find a balance between revenue
and responsibility. With another
flawed contract in place, perhaps
the Athletic Department should
have facilitated greater discus-
sion before agreeing to Adidas's
terms. The best way for this to
happen is to the consult the Uni-
versity Board of Regents prior to
But now, all the University
can do is cross its fingers that
Adidas isn't hiding a sweatshop
As the automotive industry
struggles, Lansing has rightfully
contended that the only way to
save Michigan is through educa-
tion. That's why in her 2006 State
of the State address, Gov. Jennifer
Granholm proclaimed, "Hear me
loud and clear - I refuse to slash
school funding in the middle of
this year." Even after she broke
that promise by allowing the
state legislature to slash $26 mil-
lion and "postpone" another $140
million in payments to the state's
universities earlier this summer,
lawmakers still promised that
everything would be fixed before
students were affected.
So much for all the promises.
When it comes right down to it,
public universities across the
state have had to raise tuition
because the state can't solve its
fiscal problems. The state passed
its problems on to the universities
and the universities have now
passed them on to the students.
Granholm's earlier plan to
transform Michigan's economy
into a technology-and-knowl-
edge-based economy instead of
an economy reliant on a dying
automotive industry was the
long-term thinking that could
save the state. But this is also a
plan that requires a substantial
effort to improve access to higher
education and funding to schools.
Instead of followingthrough with
this solid plan, Granholm and
other state leaders have refused
to make the sacrifices that are
required to make it work.
Ironically, just along Michi-
gan's southern border, there is a
perfect example of a state will-
ing to make sacrifices for educa-
tion as its economy struggles.
Earlier this month, Ohio Gov.
Ted Strickland announced his
plans to allocate $350 million in
funding for the state's colleges.
Ohio lawmakers decided that
this funding will help pay for a
two-year freeze in tuition rates
at public universities. In addi-
tion, the state now offers its stu-
dents the STEM program, which
allows them to receive financial
aid totaling up to half of the high-
est tuition rate to help pay for an
education in scientific fields.
If Michigan's leaders really
want to create a knowledge-based
economy, they need to put their
money where their mouth is.
Good job, Brownie
I think British Prime Min-
ister Gordon Brown reads The
Michigan Daily. Or, maybe he
just has the potential to be one of
the most inspiring leaders since
Earlier this summer, I argued
for the removal of the term
"Islamic fundamentalist" on the
grounds that it too improperly
associates political terrorism
with a religion (War of words,
05/29/2007). Similarly, Brown
took the bold step of eliminating
his administration's official use
of the adjective "Muslim" while
publicly discussing terrorism.
Before the fellas at Webster
get into a brawl with the blokes
at Oxford, consider the motiva-
tions for a person to perpetrate
such an un-American act as
Brown has done. According to
Brown's spokesman, "There is
clearly a need to strike a consen-
sual tone in relation to all com-
munities across the UK."
By casting aside religious sig-
nifiers like "Muslim," Brown is
tryingto regulate divisive speech
and foster a greater spirit of Brit-
ish national pride in all people.
Reversing the old "sticks and
stones" adage, Brown appeals to
various sympathies of oppressed
people without pumping in bil-
lions in tax revenue to do so. A
little sensitivity goes a long way.
An idea like Brown's, a change
in semantics based on not
assigning a religion to terrorism,
created uproar amongst online
readers of the Daily back in May.
Few readers actually responded
in ways ultimately approving of
violence against Muslims.
Here in America it seems that
the general public would rather
wade in this red-versus-blue
manner, decide who is "Ameri-
can" and whose code of reli-
gious-based morality we want.
And, according to some, singling
out divisive speech is deemed
Ironically, this rift in the
American viewpoint mirrors our
Eastern politics. As we consider
terror in that part of the world as
part of the same movement, we
fail to recognize the difference
between Al Qaeda and Hamas.
Whereas one is bent on global
jihad, the latter is concerned with
local conflicts and vehemently
opposes Al Qaeda involvement
in the West Bank and Gaza. If we
cannot understand this complex-
ity, how can we call terrorism a
Not understanding the partic-
ularities of so-called "Muslim"
terrorism handicaps us in ways
Brown is starting to realize.
Mike Eber isan LSA senior and a
member of the Daily's editorial board.
Editorial Board Members: Mike Eber, Kellyn Jackson,
Jennifer Sussex, Kate Truesdell, Radhika Upadhyaya