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Activists greet UI officials with valentines

By Danielle Stratton-Coulter — The Daily Iowan
Published: Tuesday, February 15, 2005

In the spirit of Valentine's Day, members of the Students Against Sweatshops sweetened up their demonstration tactics Monday, delivering oversized valentines to UI President David Skorton and members of the newly formed UI Purchasing Advisory Committee, a panel developed to review the university's purchasing policies.

Group members distributed paper hearts decorated with markers and paper doilies.

"We're delivering this message with love," group member Ned Bertz, a UI graduate student, told Skorton's secretary.

Skorton's valentine read, "We know you have a big heart. Draft an Ethical Purchasing Code of Conduct by March 21."

Bertz said the valentine was sent as a reminder to keep university officials discussing its purchasing practices.

Steve Parrott, the director of University Relations, said he had seen Skorton's valentine and thought it was a pleasant gesture.

"It was a very nice sentiment," he said. "We're working on [the ethical purchasing code]."

Students Against Sweatshops has frequently protested the university's exclusive contract with Coca-Cola, which has been accused of various human-rights abuses. The group has distributed fliers, solicited signatures for petitions, and bedecked the campus with balloons this semester to protest the contract, which makes Coca-Cola the UI's official beverage.

To handle the group's concerns, Skorton has appointed Doug True, the UI vice president for Finance, to find faculty and staff to sit on the Purchasing Advisory Committee. The panel plans to meet later this month to review the university's purchasing operations, as well as discuss whether to enact an Ethical Purchasing Code of Conduct, Parrott said.

UI graduate student Alan Schultz said Students Against Sweatshops would take further action if the March 21 deadline was not met, but he would not speculate on details.

Parrott said he did not foresee the advisory committee meeting the March 21 deadline, but, he said, "that doesn't mean one won't be drafted eventually."

E-mail DI reporter Danielle Stratton-Coulter at: danielle-stratton-coulter@uiowa.edu

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