Support the Appalachian State Six
BOONE, N.C.--After a three-day sit-in at the administration building, six students at Appalachian State University (ASU) were arrested April 11 on charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct, as some 100 supporters rallied outside.
United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) organized the action to protest ASU Chancellor Ken Peacock's refusal to support the Designated Suppliers Program (DSP), a program that calls for fair labor practices in the production of apparel with university logos.
As part of demonstrations called by USAS for the month of April, 31 students at Penn State were arrested recently for a similar protest, and students were also sitting in at the University of North Carolina to demand that their school support the DSP.
At ASU, members of USAS have pressured administrators to support the DSP for the past two years, but school officials have refused to give more than lip service to the students' demands. Although 41 U.S. colleges and universities have written statements in support of the DSP, ASU administrators have been unwilling to follow their lead, citing bogus legal concerns about the program.
The nonviolent sit-in was the students' method of last resort to bring attention to the issue and pressure administrators to draft a statement in support of the DSP.
USAS has been very successful in building support for its cause at ASU. Following an antiwar rally on March 20, USAS and Campus Antiwar Network (CAN) members and other supporters marched to the administration building to present a letter to Chancellor Peacock.
In front of 40 marchers, ASU Chief of Staff Lorin Baumhover once more declared ASU's refusal to adopt the DSP. USAS, whose Boone membership grew tremendously after March 20, began planning the direct action that led to the students' arrest.
Students knew from the beginning of the sit-in that the action would end only when ASU agreed to adopt the DSP, or the students were removed from the administration building in handcuffs. The order to leave--and the arrests of the six students who refused to comply with that order--occurred just after 7 p.m. on April 11.
USAS students are supported by many on ASU's campus, but they will need national support to get the charges against them dropped and pressure the administration to revise its position on sweatshop labor.
These goals are likely to be further complicated by Chancellor Peacock's account of the events leading up to the sit-in (e-mailed to ASU students, faculty and staff), in which he claims to have done everything within its power to appease USAS. As insulting as this is to the intelligence of the ASU community, it is an indication of how the chancellor expects to be able to present the current situation to the media and public.