Weeks after a student protest occupying University President John DeGioia’s office ended and Georgetown allowed its licensing contract with Nike to expire, the university has hired an independent mediator to facilitate negotiations with the apparel company in the coming weeks, according to university spokesperson Rachel Pugh.
Mediator Don Edwards has begun working with university administrators, Nike, and the Worker Rights Consortium, the third party monitoring group that the university wants Nike to allow into its factories that produce Georgetown-branded apparel. Edwards has already met with university administrators and the Licensing Oversight Committee (LOC), which guides the university’s leadership on trademark licensing policy to ensure its licensees keep with the university’s values. Edwards has also worked in international mediation and served as a mediator on two university campus plans.
“As we move forward with the current negotiations, we intend to consider all the interests involved and ensure that our next steps reflect the University’s commitment to workers,” Pugh wrote in an email to the Voice. She did not provide a timeline for when a new contract would be reached.
Until a new contract is reached, Georgetown bookstores will continue to sell their remaining Nike apparel purchased under the most recent contract. Pugh did not comment on the size of the existing stock of Nike apparel in the bookstore.
While no new deal has been reached yet, some members of Georgetown Solidarity Committee (GSC), who staged the sit-in at DeGioia’s office, believe that Nike may never accept the terms to which administrators and students agreed last December.
“Georgetown needs to realize that they’re working with a company that doesn’t care about things that we as a community care about,” said Kory Stuer (COL ‘19), who occupied the office for the duration of the protest. “At the end of the day, if after almost a year and a half now, Nike still hasn’t budged on some of the same issues, I think that Georgetown needs to wake up and realize they’re never going to budge.”
Additionally, GSC members continue to face possible Student Code of Conduct sanctions because of their actions during the sit-in. The eight GSC members who stayed overnight in DeGioia’s office each met individually with Jeanne Lorde, associate vice president for Student Affairs, on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the possible sanctions, though no official ruling has been delivered to the students yet, Stuer said.
The eight members also filed a complaint to the Speech and Expression Committee, a body of students, faculty, and staff that advises the Vice President for Student Affairs.
In the complaint, provided to the Voice by GSC, the eight students claim university discipline would be a violation of their free expression.
“We believe the gravity of Georgetown’s continued contracting with Nike, who have knowingly and consistently violated workers’ rights and blatantly refused to sign our school’s code of conduct for licensees, and the university’s intransigence in dealing with this situation or offering us a meeting with President DeGioia required our heightened level of political expression,” the complaint reads.
According to the university’s Speech and Expression policy, “The departments of Student Affairs, the Registrar, Protocol and Events, and Public Safety will confer to determine whether a protest may continue.” In their complaint, the eight members noted the offices did not force the protest to end. They also said that if disciplinary action needed to be taken, these offices should have ended the protest.
As the Voice reported on Dec. 11, 2016, though, Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson did tell the students who remained past close in DeGioia’s office during the protest that they would hear from the Office of Student Conduct in the coming week. The Speech and Expression policy also reads, “[Protesters] will be able to stay in the building until the building is closed for the day, or until the office or area closes for business that day. Entrance into the building does not mean entrance into any or all offices.”
Stuer also said that he and the other protesters provided administrators with a list of assurances during the protest – such as not damaging property or accessing confidential information in the office – to show that the sit-in would be peaceful.
“The spirit of the policy is aiming to protect students’ rights to express themselves, and we were doing exactly that,” he added.
In an email to the Voice, Olson said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the possible student conduct sanctions the eight face, but confirmed that he would review the Speech and Expression policy complaint at the next committee meeting, set for Jan. 31. A decision on the complaint should be released a few days after the meeting, Olson said.
Stuer called the possible sanctions ironic given that the university would be enforcing its Student Code of Conduct on the GSC members but had not enforced its Licensee Code of Conduct on Nike. He also said filing the complaint serves as a way to ensure future activists are allowed to better protest a university policy or action when they see it unjust.
“It’s more important to me that future people are able to do similar things,” Stuer said. “I’d rather [administrators]not try to use us as an example to discourage future people from standing up for Georgetown’s values in the same way.”