UISG passes resolution supporting fair trade at UI

UISG passed a resolution supporting Fair Trade at Iowa’s initiative to make the UI a fair-trade university.


Grace Colton

UISG members debate legislature at a meeting in the Iowa Memorial Union on Tuesday February 12 2019.

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

Only one college in Iowa, Loras, is designated as a Fair Trade University, but a group of University of Iowa students is working to change that.

UI Student Government passed a resolution in support of fair-trade initiatives on campus, bringing Fair Trade at Iowa closer to its goal of making the UI a fair-trade designated university.

Zach Rochester, the chair of Fair Trade at Iowa, said the campaign has gained momentum. Rochester hopes to achieve fair-trade certification from Fair Trade Campaigns, a national organization, by the end of the semester.

“We have our team fully assembled and have a real direction now, which was sooner than expected since we just started last semester,” Rochester said.

The UISG resolution provides Fair Trade at Iowa more leverage in negotiating with university entities, Rochester said.

To become fully fair-trade certified, Fair Trade at Iowa needs to ensure that two fair-trade products are provided in every retail and dining-hall location on campus, as well as obtain a resolution of support from the university administration.

RELATED: New student organization wants to bring fair trade to the UI

Joseph Haggerty, vice president of Fair Trade at Iowa, said fair-trade campaigns focus less on changing goods and more on offering consumers more choices to purchase fair-trade products.

“What this would look like at the UI, for example — at places where you can get flex meals, the option for fair-trade tea to be included, which is very feasible, or for the inclusion of fair-trade coffee instead of Starbucks coffee,” Haggerty said. “Just more options for people on campus to choose more sustainably and equitably.”

Rochester said Fair Trade at Iowa is focusing on promoting fair trade to UI students. The group plans to hold documentary screenings later in the semester.

“We’re going to utilize the rest of this semester to start a get to know us campaign,” Rochester said. “We’re going to be pretty vocal about why UI needs fair trade.”

UISG Sen. Sarah Henry said the resolution from UISG encourages the UI to continue with its commitment to sustainability.

“It’s basically a statement of support from UISG, and the student body for the University of Iowa becoming a fair-trade university,” she said. “It encourages the university to stick to a commitment of sustainability and ethical purchasing.”

The UI’s size could have a big effect on fair-trade initiatives, Henry said.

“It’s a lot of small towns or community school districts that have done it right now, and so UI being fair-trade certified is a very big deal — especially with the amount of purchasing power we have as such a big institution,” Henry said.

UISG can provide Fair Trade at Iowa with support when meeting with university officials, Henry said.

Haggerty said the goals of fair trade are aligned with the UI’s focus on diversity, inclusion, and sustainability.

“By allowing students to have fair-trade goods, we’re extending our grasp as a university into helping those in less developed communities and countries all over the world,” Haggerty said. “Through working to make the world a better place through our small university in the middle of Iowa, we can really make an impact.”