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About a dozen members of Harvard Students Against Sweatshops (HSAS) demonstrated outside an alumni event in Winthrop House on Friday, protesting the University's reliance on a private consulting firm to monitor labor conditions at factories that produce college-licensed apparel.
The protest followed the release on Friday of the "Independent University Initiative," a yearlong study of worldwide apparel manufacturing conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The report has been criticized by some for its reliance on information gathered by a for-profit corporate monitor.
Just last week, one of the report's authors criticized Pricewaterhouse's monitoring methods as "significantly flawed."
The protesters, most of whose mouths were covered with tape, carried signs and distributed pamphlets to members of the Classes of 1955 and 1960, who were attending a reunion tea at Winthrop House.
"Harvard reported today that its clothes are made in sweatshops," one sign said.
According to HSAS member Benjamin L. McKean '02, who is also a Crimson editor, Pricewaterhouse overlooked many of the labor violations perpetrated by the investigated factories.
"[Pricewaterhouse's] methodology is completely inadequate," he said. "There was no room for detail in their own field reports."
Despite their discontent, the protesters chose to influence alumni with pamphlets rather than noise. The protest was timed to coincide with the reunion event, which gave alumni the opportunity "to discuss with top administrators concerns they may have with Harvard," according to Jane H. Martin '01.
"We just want them to know about some other concerns they should have," Martin said.
Reunion event organizers said they were not upset by the students' demonstration.
"I think it's great," said Joshua E. Dietrich '93, assistant director of classes and reunions for the Harvard Alumni Association. "The alumni seem to be excited to see students involved in a cause."
While many alumni said they appreciated the students' conviction, a few expressed skepticism.
"The message [in the pamphlet] isn't presented clearly," said James H. Stone '60. "The emotional arguments seem acceptable, but they need to be substantiated with the economic facts."
But Yale professor Robert J. Wyman '60, a self-described "old radical," said he was willing to err on the students' side.
In instances of student activism, "my experience has been that students always turn out to be right," Wyman said.
David L. James '55 said the protesters may have a tough time convincing alumni to take action.
"The cause is worthy...but this group [of alumni] tends to be conservative in their views," said James, who represented clothing manufacturer Levi Strauss in a 1997 case concerning human rights issues.
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