At a public forum Wednesday night, Ross and other members of the General Administration listened to opinions about whether corporations producing UNC-branded clothing abroad ensure workers’ safety.
A presentation given at the forum said UNC-CH specifically accounts for almost 60 percent of all of the royalties gained from licensing for the entire UNC system. Seventy-five percent of these royalties come from products sourced in Bangladesh.
The original schedule for the forum was altered as impassioned members of Student Action with Workers demanded Ross’s undivided attention.
Specifically, members of the group shared their disdain for the University’s contract with VF Corporation, a clothing company that operates multiple factories in Bangladesh.
Members of the group wanted Ross to end UNC-CH’s contract with the VF Corporation if it refuses to sign on with the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. The accord would ensure worker protections as well as inspections of the factories.
Shannon Brien, a junior and Student Action with Workers member, said multiple VF Corporation factories in Bangladesh have collapsed or caught on fire. These poor working conditions have caused thousands of deaths.
The group was also concerned by the forum’s inaccessibility for students.
“We asked for the forum to be held on campus but instead it was held at the Friday Center, which is a difficult location for students to access,” said Naomi Carbrey, a member of Student Action with Workers.
Tom Shanahan, senior vice president and general counsel of legal affairs for the General Administration, said this forum was not specifically about the VF Corporation.
“The meeting tonight is actually looking at licensing related to products that are sourced in Bangladesh,” Shanahan said.
Both Shanahan and Ross said the forum should help administrators determine whether licensing practices should be decided for the system as a whole or for each UNC school individually.
“The interest here is to figure out what the best approach is for UNC-system campuses to take. There is no issue here of cutting licensing, but what sort of standards we have in place,” Shanahan said.
Without some sort of governance, the VF Corporation has no liability for the deaths that occur in their factories.
“For the past couple years, we have been having this campaign to ensure that all of our licensees and all of the companies that we do business with have safe working conditions in Bangladesh,” Brien said.
Ross said this issue is bigger than just UNC-Chapel Hill.
“I will make my decision based on what is best for everyone,” he said.