Students seek to make Univ. Fair Trade

By Katherine Schotz


A group of 10 seniors is taking the necessary steps to make the University a Fair Trade University, which would make it not only the first Patriot League school, but the first on the east coast and sixth university overall to become certified fair trade. The group hosted alum Scott Leeder ’04, CEO of Ameica’s first fair trade clothing company.

According to Fair Trade USA’s official website, the organization strives “to empower family farmers and workers around the world, while enriching the lives of those struggling in poverty. Rather than creating dependency on aid, we use a market-based approach that empowers farmers to get a fair price for their harvest, helps workers create safe working conditions, provides a decent living wage and guarantees the right to organize.”

“Certified fair trade products ensure that everyone who is involved in making the product gets a living wage,” said Clayton Smith ’11, one of the members of the group. “There are higher social and environmental standards too.”

In order to gain certification, a school must offer two fair trade products at every food outlet. The University currently uses fair trade baking chocolate in the dining products, and there is also a fair trade coffee option.

“We are trying to get people to recognize and raise awareness that there is another option,” Bryan Seward ’11 said.

The students are working hard to get the attention of the student body. About 20 students attended Leeder’s lecture about the importance of fair trade.

“Most of our efforts concern informing students about fair trade, Dan Minnis ’11 said. “The social issues around the products and why they are better are important and not as well known as they should be.”

One of the ways that the group was able to raise awareness on campus was by creating a committee that will continue to raise awareness and increase use of fair trade products. Some of the possible ways they are trying to do this include working with Leeder to have the golf team wear fair trade polo shirts. If this happens, it would be the first official University team to wear fair trade uniforms.

The group’s long-term goal is to have the Dining Services company’s contract include a clause that requires the use of fair trade products, Minnis said. Because the group has formed a student organization, new members will take over where they leave off after May’s graduation.

The group hopes that by May 22, the University will officially be certified as Fair Trade. There are two main aspects left: the group needs to submit paperwork and also needs a faculty adviser.

“We are looking for someone who respects the social responsibility initiative,” Seward said.  “We set up the group so that it is student-run, so the adviser’s role would be a small time commitment.”

The seniors are confident that next year the students who take over will continue to raise awareness and work with the University.

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