Penn First University to Depart From FLA

Nine days after students began occupying her office, University of Pennsylvania (Penn) President Judith Rodin gave in to student demands and signed an agreement making Penn the first school in the country to withdraw from the Fair Labor Association (FLA).

Rodin signed the agreement yesterday afternoon, more than 150 hours into the sit-in and about 36 hours into a nationwide two-day fast in solidarity with the protesters. A dozen Harvard students participated in the fast.

Penn students ended the sit-in in exchange for their school's withdrawal from the FLA, an organization designed to monitor working conditions in overseas collegiate apparel factories.

Penn's move increases pressure on Harvard to follow suit.

But University Attorney Allan A. Ryan Jr., Harvard's point person on sweatshop policy, said Penn's decision would not immediately affect Harvard policy.

"We're not going to pull out because Penn pulls out," he said. "Penn makes Penn's decisions, and Harvard makes Harvard's decisions."

Labor activists, both at Harvard and Penn, argue that the FLA is tainted by its close ties to the corporations it is supposed to monitor.

Instead, they urge schools to affiliate with the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), a grassroots organization incorporating students and workers.