Chocolate, coffee and tea are just a few of the ingredients that composed the recipe for an official “Fair Trade” status for the University. On Wednesday, April 17, the University celebrated its new “Fair Trade University” classification.
After more than two years of hard work by the ‘Nova chapter of Catholic Relief Services and cooperation from the administration, the application was approved for this status, making Villanova the 14th Fair Trade University in the United States, and the second one in Pennsylvania.
Students, faculty and administration members celebrated with a menu of fair trade products in the President’s Lounge including chocolate, coffee and tea. All the food was provided by Dining Services, a key component of campus in obtaining the fair trade status.
Rev. Peter Donahue, O.S.A. spoke at the event, congratulating all those in the Center for Peace and Justice, CRS, Dining Services, Student Life and the University Shop who helped to make this happen.
“There has to be a lot of dedication on this campus to make sure it continues,” Donahue said. “We need to embrace it as a community and question whether or not we’re constantly doing the right thing. This status gives us an opportunity to move forward.”
To become a Fair Trade University, there are five qualifications according to Fair Trade USA. The University has to form a Fair Trade Committee, make Fair Trade products available on campus, use Fair Trade products in University offices, meetings and events, commit to Fair Trade education, awareness-raising and growth of Fair Trade on campus and develop a Fair Trade resolution.
While the criteria seems very vague, the University has honed in on a few specific efforts.
Last spring, some CRS individuals worked to bring Alta Gracia products into the University Book Shop to sell.
The majority of the apparel in Kennedy is made at large corporations such as Champion and Nike. It is well known that these companies have been accused of the use of inhumane sweatshops that don’t foster healthy work environments.
There is an ethical alternative in purchasing goods from Alta Gracia, a company that produces college apparel without using sweatshops.
Last year, CRS Fair Trade Ambassador senior Melissa Madden visited the Alta Gracia factory in the Dominican Republic with other Villanova students. After speaking with workers in the factory it was clear what a positive impact Alta Gracia was making.
The workers had standard hours, necessary breaks and livable wages that were 3.5 times their old pay. Fewer families were forced to split up to find work. Madden said that surrounding factories were beginning to change their working conditions, too, because of the new expectations in the community.
“It became apparent how powerful the example of Alta Gracia was for other companies,” said Madden.
A common misconception about ethically run factories and companies is that their products will be too expensive to purchase the same quality and quantity of goods a buyer can purchase from a sweatshop based company. The apparel, however, is similarly priced and just as good quality.
The food on campus has also played a major role in the new University status. Tim Dieztler, head of Dining Services, was an advocate for Fair Trade food available to students and was a huge help to CRS in the time spent working on this.
Other people who contributed to the efforts were Will Stehl, Fair Trade University committee chair and an associate director for Peace and Justice Education.
In Stehl’s introduction to the celebration, he said these socially conscious efforts stem all the way back to a decade ago, when Fair Trade coffee was advocated in on-campus a la carte locations.
Even before this, there were professors advocating for coffee co-ops. Fair Trade coffee, both in Holy Grounds and dining halls, is clearly a popular drink at the University and the acceptance and use of it has been another step toward Fair Trade status.
“This commitment to Fair Trade reflects the deeper nature of our University’s mission,” Stehl said.
Co-president of CRS Ambassadors, junior Kaitlin Thompson agrees.
“I am most proud of being recognized through this status as a university committed to the ideals of justice and dignity, not just in our mission statement, but in real and practical ways,” Thompson said. “Specifically with multiple consumer options throughout campus to support economic justice and the education that is happening in and out of the classroom.”
When it comes to the next steps for maintaining and supplementing this status, it will be up to the community as Donahue said. Thompson has a few ideas to keep in mind that go beyond the celebration of the new status to future efforts.
“The next step is to get the word out to students, faculty and administrators about our real power as consumers, increase the number of Fair Trade products on campus and encourage FT decisions on campus and off,” Thompson said. “We can use the official recognition of the status to do great things and continually recommit and increase our efforts to support economic justice.”
For those interested in the University’s CRS Ambassador Program, Fair Trade is one of their six issue groups.
To learn more about Fair Trade or other areas of International Development (Global Health, Food Security, Migration, Peacebuilding, or Microfinance) stop by the Center for Peace and Justice in Corr Hall or go to http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/mission/crs.html.