Letters to the Editor

Back to knowledgeTo the editor:It was reassuring to read Jonas Kane’s column, “Let’s get back to the basics: classes” (March 12) – not because what he describes is in any way reassuring, but because it is comforting to know that, instead of succumbing to the idolization of technology, rankings and identity, some of our students are interested in knowledge.-Gustavo Benavides, department of theology and religious studies

Academic focus remainsTo the editor:The author of “Let’s get back to the basics: classes” seems to be the only one “obsessing over debatable rankings.” I received the same email from the President, and did not find the tone to be “self-congratulatory” at all. When Villanova is recognized for its achievements, should not the University and student body be proud? I agree that if Villanova’s focus was solely on increasing its rankings, that would be wrong. The University’s focus is on increasing the quality of the educational experience it gives its students; better rankings are merely a result of that focus. The author laments about the cancellation of certain classes in the German and communication departments. Do not these cancellations simply reflect a decreased demand for these classes? At the same time, the author advocates doing away with ACS and “superficial ‘arts’ science classes.” Why are some class cancellations acceptable, while others are not? I agree with the author that “there is no reason to eliminate important programs and classes from the curriculum,” but who is the author to determine which classes are “important”? I believe we should leave that decision to the administrators and deans. In the president’s “The Continuing Impact of the Economy on Villanova” letter to students and staff, he states: “As indicated in this message, I want to emphasize that Villanova is in good financial health.” This is a far cry from the “baffling” assertion that the “University claims to be strapped for cash.” Yes, in the budget, $4.2 million is assigned to the renovation of Fedigan Hall. I would think that most students living in resident halls on campus would agree that some buildings are in desperate need of renovation. However, despite the money used to renovate residence halls, the president assures us that the quality of our education will not be compromised: “We remain committed to maintaining the academic integrity of the Villanova educational experience and to our faculty and staff.” With regards to the hiring freeze, the president says, “There may be positions that I consider necessary which the University will seek to fill in these and other areas.” In conclusion, the University’s focus continues to remain on academics, not “cosmetic surgery” like the author claims, but I may be biased as I am a member of the “privileged financial school.” Perhaps a little research on the actual state of Villanova’s finances would do the author well before writing his next article.-Joseph Lavin, freshman

Don’t overreact on RussellTo the editor:If Russell Athletic sells to any number of major retailers like Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target, Costco and others, there is already sufficient testing assuring fair social compliance at Russell factories worldwide. I have been involved in importing for the past 13 years and sell all the above majors. Each of them have import teams that scour our factory and make sure we do not operate ‘sweat shops’. None of these major retailers can afford to be the subject of liability for such far-reaching abuses to workers in any country. These social audits cover a multiptude of issues, from fire safety, safety exits, ventilation, workweek hours, proper overtime wages, lunch breaks, etc. A simple phone call from the University shop to a higher-up at Russell Athletic would likely bring proper closure to the situation. Merely ask for prior “social audit” tests for their factories by major retailers in the past 24 months. They will likely supply this willingly so that their name is cleared and may continue doing business with Villanova. There is a lot of reactionary knee-jerkism in the world today. Rather than take an aggressive stance on something not truly understood, gather the facts needed and work with the parties involved so that all sides are heard. I am hoping that Villanova and Villanovans don’t fall prey to subjectivism and that the term ‘fair and ethical’ is also understood as balanced and objective fact. -John Evanthes, Class of ’85

Clarifying Russell relationshipTo the editor:Last week’s editorial, “Justice in the bookstore” stated that the University Shop sells Russell Athletic apparel.  In fact, the University Shop has not purchased products from Russell since 2001.   The University Shop has no products in stock, or any orders pending or canceled with Russell.  Russell’s only connection to the University is as a licensed manufacturer of Villanova insignia goods.  We look forward to a continued dialogue with Athletics, the Progressive Student Network and the University Senate’s Mission and Social Justice Committee to address the concerns they have raised.-Frank L. Henninger, Director of University Shop

Sweatshop labor: a moral issueTo the editor:Russell Athletic aside, it is important to recognize that not nearly enough has changed in regard to the overall apparel industry.  Too often workers face oppressive working conditions for the sake of maintaining ‘low production costs.’ Apparel brands put tremendous pressure on supplier factories to cut costs and these pressures make deep and sustainable improvements in wages and working conditions effectively impossible.  We need a more proactive approach to stop violations before they start.  The Designated Suppliers Program (DSP) is a tool that Villanova can use to enforce our Manufacturing Code of Conduct.  It is not a radical new imposition, rather, it seeks to ensure that licensing agreements comply with the Code of Conduct we already have.Regarding anti-trust concerns raised by Mr. Steitz’s, Donald Baker, former head of the anti-trust division of the Justice Department, wrote several letters concluding that neither universities nor licensees face risks of antitrust litigation.  That aside, the majority of universities have signed on to the DSP conditionally.Regardless, Villanova’s clothes are made in sweatshops, and Villanova has a moral obligation to do something about it.  If Villanova is committed to addressing sweatshop abuse, then we should show support for the only program that systematically addresses the fundamental problems in the garment industry.  As Villanova students, our voices matter to administration and to companies.  Collectively, we are the most substantial contributor to the budget and we buy Villanova apparel.  If we stand together, I assure you people will listen.  They already are.-Christina Bernardo, President, Progressive Student Network

Thanks, Dining ServicesTo the editor:In response to your article “Dining Services celebrates National Nutrition Month” (3/12/09), I would like to thank Gail Gamble and the rest of Dining Services for celebrating National Nutrition Month by focusing on meatless cuisine. The management team is making a wise decision to keep up with the ever-growing demand for vegetarian and vegan options, which are both healthier and more humane. A recent study by Aramark, a leading food service provider, concluded that nearly a quarter of college students are actively seeking vegan options when they sit down to eat, for reasons ranging from their own health, to environmental concerns, and of course cruelty to animals. As students are becoming more educated about where their food comes from, it’s understandable why they are voicing their concerns to Dining Services. When students discover that chickens on factory farms often have their beaks sliced off with hot blades, or that many cows and pigs are skinned and dismembered while still fully conscious, it’s no surprise that they are searching for meat-free alternatives. If these kinds of abuses were inflicted upon cats or dogs, it would result in felony cruelty to animals charges. Thankfully, with Dining Services rapidly expanding the number of delicious and cruelty-free meals on campus, not to mention local grocery stores adding vegetarian BBQ “riblets” and vegan pizza to the shelves, it’s never been easier to cut meat out of your diet for good. -Ryan Huling, College Campaign Coordinator, peta2.com

In support of vegetarianismTo the editor:Re: “Dining Services celebrates National Nutrition Month,” March 12, 2009 It’s wonderful that dining services is celebrating National Nutrition Month by offering more vegetarian options! The American Dietetic Association recognizes that vegetarians have lower rates of heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes, and various cancers as well obesity. Choosing vegetarian foods not only helps protect our health, but it also protects animals. Each year in the U.S., more than 10 billion birds, pigs, and cows are killed for us to eat. Most of these animals are forced to spend their lives on factory farms, where they’re crammed inside cages, stalls, or pens, and are deprived of almost everything natural to them. With virtually no laws to protect them, these animals are routinely treated like mere meat-, milk-, and egg-producing machines. If similar abuses were inflicted upon the dogs and cats with whom we share our homes, it would lead to criminal prosecution. Thankfully, healthier and more humane foods are increasingly available in cafeterias, restaurants, and store everywhere, making it easier than even to make our next meal a vegetarian one. -Erica Meier Executive Director Compassion Over Killing