March 10, 2008
On Saturday March 8th, York University President Mamdouh Shoukri made a commitment to introduce a No Sweat licensing policy at the university by April. This promise came in response to a 45 hour sit-in by York students, members of the Sustainable Purchasing Coalition (SPC), a student group lobbying to reform York licensing and purchasing policies to more sustainable standards. If this pledge goes through as promised, York will bring the number of Canadian Universities with No Sweat policies to 17.
Some of the students that participated in the sit-in outside President Shoukri's office
The SPC is a student group that has been lobbying for such a policy for the past three years. "We are exhausted but overjoyed," says Besmira Alikaj, one of the students participating in the sit-in. "This is the commitment we were looking for, and it's great to hear it after all the work that we've put into it, not only over the last few days but over the past three years."
"The policy will be at least as progressive as U of T and other universities, if not more," promised York president Shoukri. "If other universities have had this policy and withstood the test of time, I don't see why we can't do it too."
The students' victory is an especially significant considering that York University is the third largest university in Canada.
The Sustainable Purchasing Coalition held a rally Thursday, March 6, calling on the university to adopt their proposed No Sweat policy, one that included signing on to both the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) monitoring programs. The SPC circulated a petition asking for student support for the proposed policy and collected over a thousand signatures. Immediately following the rally, the SPC attempted to deliver the signed petitions to President Shoukri.
President Shoukri holds up a York University Sweater
At 2:00 p.m., dozens of students marched from the rally to the President's office on the 9th floor of the main student building. When they were told the President was unavailable to see them, the students decided to stay. On 24-hour security watch, the students camped outside the president's office for two days.
After two days of seemingly little attention by administration, at 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning, President Shoukri finally showed up and asked the students to sit down and talk about their demands. It was at this point that Shoukri made his commitments to the students.
"We hope this meeting will set a precedent for future interactions between students and York administration," says Alikaj.