Posted by: w00107746 | February 1, 2008

Open Letter to Dean Sue

Dean Sue,

 

The last semester, for the both of us, and I couldn’t be anymore excited! In addition to further integrating myself into my studies, writing my thesis, and looking ahead to future options, I have a new development that I would like to share with you.

 

I’ve recently become involved in a movement which is seeking to foster involved participation in global processes through an awareness/action campaign here at Wheaton College. This campaign seeks to create a unified, educated voice of the Wheaton Community to solicit and leverage the assistance of the Adrienne and John Mars in the improvement of the Mars Corporation’s labor practices. Our ultimate goal is to have Mars alter their current labor practices so to create fair trade and abolish, while creating simultaneous education alternatives, for the 109,000 child workers currently employed in the cultivation of Cocoa in West Africa under “the worst forms of child labor”—The U.S. Department of State estimates that 10,000 of these child laborers are “victims of human trafficking or enslavement.” (Please see < http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/fairtrade/cocoa/IITACocoaResearch.pdf&gt; for the USDOL report on Child Labor in the Cocoa industry in West Africa)

 

This is an infinitely complex issue, and one that resonates close to home for the Wheaton College Community. As major beneficiaries of the Mars Corporation—through the donation of its former President and CEO John Mars—in the past and in the future (construction of the science center) it is imperative that the Wheaton Community be informed of, and critically analyze, the sources of the funding and means through which the funds were raised.

 

Our college prides itself on its principles of social responsibility and global awareness, two imperative aspects of our world today. Wheaton is a member of the Fair Labor Association, whose mission is to combine the efforts of industry, civil society organizations and colleges and universities to protect workers’ rights and improve working conditions worldwide by adhering to international labor standards.

 

We are concerned that Wheaton College’s affiliation with Mars Incorporated jeopardizes the principles of our institution and our membership with the Fair Labor Association. Our mission statement speaks of an institution that is globally aware and socially responsible; we believe that these values cannot coexist with those of a major contributor whose business practices violate basic human rights. In a world full of injustices, we see this as an opportunity to encourage a corporation with whom we hold a close rapport to change its business model to positively affect the lives of hundreds of thousands in West Africa.

 

We are not advocating for a boycott of the Mars Corporation’s products nor are we asking Wheaton to refuse its donations. Rather, we believe this important and complex topic should immediately be brought to the attention of students and faculty. As recipients of the money from the Mars family, all members of the Wheaton College community are benefiting from the labor practices of the Mars Corporation. Therefore, we have a responsibility to address this issue and ensure that the principles upon which Wheaton College is based are not in jeopardy.

 

Dean Sue, this movement has about thirty core, dedicated members and we have been organizing and meeting with many faculty members and other advisors (John Miller, Dean Verene) to decide the best course of action to raise awareness and bring about change. We would truly appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

 

The two goals for our campaign are as follows: 1) We seek to fully educate the Wheaton College Community about the Mars Corporations labor practices and Wheaton’s close association with the Mars Corporation. 2) With a unified community voice, we want to use our close association with Mr. and Mrs. Mars to petition and leverage for positive change in the Mars Corporations’ business practices seeking the abolition and empowerment of child laborers in West Africa.

 

To achieve our first objective, we are focusing on an education/awareness week which will coincide with the week of Valentines Day. We are also working to bring two Wheaton Alums who work for Global Exchange and the Fair Trade Association to come to campus for further education about Cocoa Farming labor practices.

 

To achieve our second objective, we are creating a petition, which we hope will be signed by every possible person in the Wheaton Community—Students, Faculty, Staff—to present to Adrienne Mars soliciting her assistance in affecting change in the Mars Corporation.

 

Speaking candidly, there are so many directions this movement can go—my personal hope is this will be an empowering dialog which will not only educate and unify the Wheaton Community, but will also directly empower and improve the lives of over a hundred thousand child laborers in West Africa. To achieve this, we are basing our campaign on respect, staying away from inflammatory messages and instead hoping to kindle and utilize Wheaton’s close relationship with the Mars family to affect change in the Mars Corporation.

 

This can be an incredibly beneficial and empowering process for all involved—Wheaton College, Mars, and those laboring in West Africa harvesting Cocoa. With the pressure applied on the Mars Corporation by Wheaton College, Mars will be motivated to act on consumer demands for fair trade chocolate—and not just Wheaton’s demand; there are broad based consumer surveys which demonstrate the vast majority of consumers prefer their products be produced under fair trade conditions. Mars can produce a new line of fair trade chocolate, which will not only benefit the bottom line of their corporation, but will also raise the incomes of farming families in West Africa, eliminating the necessity for Child Labor. Further investment by the Mars Corporation in the formation of educational opportunities for the former Child Labor in West Africa will lead to positive media coverage in the U.S., leading to higher sales by appealing to prevailing consumer sentiments.

 

I hope this e-mail has demonstrated the many sided, complicated issue this movement is tackling. I also hope that our way of tackling the issue is a viable one. Dean Sue, all of us at the movement are really looking forward to your take on the issue and hope you can provide us with recommendations to further improve our reach and effectiveness.

 

Sincerely,

Ryan Patch

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