Students Continue Push for Fair Trade Status

Aspretto by Sodexo supports Fair Trade and makes use of their products.

Aspretto by Sodexo supports Fair Trade and makes use of their products.

By Joe Vitale

Fair trade — the movement that strives to foster economic development through equitable trading partnerships — has steadily established itself as a part of life at Fordham.

Students for Fair Trade (SFT) is a campus organization that works with artisans to provide a Western market for their products. Along with a number of courses on fair trade, fair trade products are available for purchase at every retailer on campus.

Fair trade products are also available at many university events and eating establishments.

Still, according to Fair Trade Campaigns, an organization that works to educate consumers about socially responsible business practices, Fordham is not officially a fair trade university.

Fordham has already met four of the five requirements, according to SFT. The requirements include having a fair trade team, the involvement of campus outlets, fair trade products at events and meetings on campus.

The fourth requirement is a commitment to fair trade education, which the group says has been met by some courses offered by the Gabelli School of Business.

The final step — a resolution passed through by the Board of Trustees or the President’s office — has not been completed.

Many in the community, including students and professors, continue to press for a resolution by the university.

The issue was one of several initiatives discussed during January’s Student Life Council Meeting.

There, SFT’s President, Tiffany Melillo, GSB ’15 and Vice President, Michael Billotti, both GSB ’15, appealed to the university to make a statement committing to fair trade.

“It’s a sustainable way to fight poverty,” Melillo said of fair trade. “Instead of just putting a band-aid on the problem where you’re giving out food, it’s coming from the bottom.”

SLC voted in support of the initiative, echoing a similar step taken by United Student Government, which passed a resolution in support of the initiative in Nov. 2013.

“The Council had a brief but very helpful conversation with the student Fair Trade group at the January Student Life Council Meeting,” said dean of students Christopher Rodgers. “Like others who were a part of the discussion, I was grateful to learn more about this effort and happy to hear that we are already meeting most or all of the standards in the proposal.”

“Of course, the values and goals articulated in the document are important- it’s no surprise that that they would resonate with students at a Jesuit Catholic university like ours, Rodgers added, before saying: “With this in mind, we will work with and advise the students leading the effort as they look into what Fordham is already doing in this area and how other various goals in the proposal might be approached.”

While the university has not denied the possibility, some students argue that it would be a honorable distinction for Fordham. Plus, students of SFT say, Fordham has already met the standard required by Fair Trade Campaign.

“Nothing would change because we already have qualified,” said Mellilo. “We already qualify. It’s a matter of accepting a designation that is already there.”

Katherine Combellick, an associate professor of communications and media management, teaches all three of Fordham’s fair trade courses.

One course, called “Fair Trade and Micro-Finance” examines the structure of fair trade as an alternative form of commerce which specifically expresses solidarity with the poor. The course also includes a study tour to India.

Combellick says there is a misconception about the costs of being designated a fair trade university.

“It is making a statement about where our priorities are,” said Combellick.

Combellick also teaches two other courses, including “Spirituality, Fair Trade and Social Justice” as well as “Entrepreneurship and Fair Trade,” which also gives students the opportunity to meet the partners who make the products sold on campus.

“If Fordham was entitled a fair trade university, not only would it recognize the progress students on campus have made for the artisans, but it would also increase support for the movement itself,” said Kinza Mian, GSB ’18, one of Combelick’s students.

“Connecting our school’s name with this movement can reflect very well on our community,” said Kathryn Roberts, GSB ’18, another student enrolled in a fair trade course. “Being a Jesuit university, Fordham focuses on caring for the community around them and helping those that are living in poor conditions.”

“We may not see the people oppressed by unfair business practices,” Roberts said, “but they are still there, and our Jesuit values encourage us to act with compassion towards those that suffer.”


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