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Advocacy Club aims to change t-shirt process for Varsity Shop

Photo by Andrew Brown ’18 | Yael Balbuena Basto ’19 browses the varity shop as Kenny Scroggin ’18 waits to buy a prom ticket Tuesday April 18.  The Advocacy Club is currently working with the Varsity Shop to have them sell clothes that are produced ethically.

By Ethan Winkler ’17

The Advocacy Club has started one of their first major movements for on-campus change recently with a petition asking if students would pay a few more dollars for t-shirts that are more ethically made.

After receiving 307 signatures, club leaders said it was obvious to them that this was a change that was worth pursuing.

Students created the club this year after many people on campus felt moved by the IFTJ, or the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice.

About a dozen students and teachers, some of them being Blaise Schaefer ’18, Gray Olson ’17 and religion teacher Ms. Elizabeth Clarke attended the IFTJ and all came back inspired to create a club focused around Brophy students taking action for others.

“The club itself originated from the IFTJ (Ignatian Family Teach-In),” Schaefer said. “When we came home, we decided that advocacy should not be that big picture of the federal government as the only option. We can make change here in the community.”

Olson said that his biggest takeaway was the concept of advocacy.

“Advocacy is doing something to help some other group or some cause you believe in,” Olson said. “It can be anything like going to talk to state legislators, talking to legislators on the national level or going to a protest.”

Ms. Clarke said she came back wanting to convince young people that they can influence change.

“I think that change is possible,” Ms. Clarke said. “I think it’s very easy to think that we can’t make any kind of a difference.”

After some research, the Advocacy Club learned that some school t-shirts are supplied by major clothing companies and produced in sweatshops, where working conditions and pay are abysmal.

This is what led to the petition, which Ms. Clarke said was a major success and surpassed their expectations.

“The goal of the petition was to get just some kind of indication in writing from the students,” Ms. Clarke said. “We just wanted to start the conversation and get some kind of indication that students would be willing to pay a little more if they knew that the t-shirt was sourced ethically.”

Ms. Clarke also said how, even though almost everyone would agree with this concept, there are a lot of moving parts and complications that make it a challenge.

“The complexity is what I think is the biggest hurdle,” Ms. Clarke said. “It’s getting everyone on the same page, everybody dealing with the complexity, and everyone learning how to speak the same language.”

One of these challenges is the price of the t-shirts. While the Advocacy Club would love to keep the prices the same, they said that the shirts will almost definitely go up in price slightly.

This is something that Schaefer said he knows is unavoidable.

“The Varsity Shop is still a part of the school business, so the finances need to match up,” Schaefer said.

But all three of these club members have said that the Varsity Shop and Principal Mr. Bob Ryan have been very helpful and supportive during this tough process.

“The Varsity Shop has been really great,” Ms. Clarke said. “Our intention is definitely to partner with them, not to villainize them.”

In the end, the Advocacy Club said that they hope to use t-shirt vendors that are part of a garment industry union that can certify that they make shirts in the U.S. and treat their workers and working conditions with the utmost respect and dignity.

Olson and Ms. Clarke said that this kind of change is very necessary if Brophy is going to practice what they preach about caring for others.

“I think the motivation behind this is that we thought Brophy was being morally inconsistent,” Olson said. “With both our Catholic and Jesuit values, and even just our values for human beings, we should not want to exploit others.”

“If we’re going to talk the talk, I think this is definitely part of walking the walk,” Ms. Clarke said.