Without push or shove, UK should be more transparent with students

Outreach at UK comprises hundreds of student organizations. Many of these groups exist for students to bond over a common interest or learn a new skill. Others advocate for a change on campus.

Especially with a student body that’s often disconnected from administrators and trustees, an organization that makes the university change is even more special.

Kudos to UK’s United Students Against Sweatshops group for pressing President Eli Capilouto to affiliate with the Workers Rights Consortium, a national group dedicated to ensuring clothing is not produced in sweatshops and guaranteeing conditions in which official UK apparel is made are held to a higher standard.

USAS member Alli Sehon said she was pleased the administration chose to affiliate, but she wished there could have been more open discussion in the beginning.

She said the group wrote a first letter to Capilouto last spring and after seven months, never heard a response.

So the group wrote another letter in October, and again, it received no response.

That’s when the group members started hosting events, such as a candlelight vigil and guest speakers knowledgeable about sweatshops.

Sehon said when the group members passed along newspaper clippings to the president’s office, they were promised a response.

The effect was Capilouto calling a meeting with seven students. He “heard our arguments and was very respectful and had great questions,” Sehon said. And although he would not give a timeline for possible action, USAS kept hosting events and educating students.

More than a month later, the group got an email from the president’s office that UK planned to affiliate with the Workers Rights Consortium.

“I’m very proud that in the end we did affiliate,” Sehon said. “I think it’s the best thing that UK could have done for our students and athletic program.”

USAS is a great model of the kind of change students should and do make on this campus, and more organizations, should their purposes strive for a similar effect, would be right to follow its example.

But while getting a response from Capilouto is a definite win for the students, the process by which positive change is effected on campus could be improved.

In a push for more transparency, Capilouto should be meeting with or, at the least, responding to students when they bring up issues about campus, especially when so many decisions are made without widespread student input, save for one student representative on the Board of Trustees.

In the victory of USAS, Sehon said patience and persistence were key in getting UK to change.

“This is our university and it would not be there without us,” she said. “In the end that is the strongest argument any of us could effect.”