Editorial: With perseverance, student activism triggers results

Students often do not realize the power they have to bring change to campus. Two student organizations at Pitt have shown that student activism can work when paired with perseverance. 

On Friday, Pitt signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. According to a release, the accord requires “regular factory safety inspections, financial accountability on behalf of companies for necessary factory repairs and gives workers the rights to form unions and refuse to enter a building they find unsafe without the risk of losing their jobs.”

This move will ideally pressure Pitt’s apparel licensees to follow the practices within the accord. Licensees that fail to abide by the accord may face termination or the loss of their University license.

Pitt’s announcement comes after long-term efforts by No Sweat: Pitt Coalition Against Sweatshops and Americans for Informed Democracy (AID) — student groups that remained committed to their cause since April 2013. Their primary vehicles were petitions and protests, including last April’s “die-in” in the Cathedral of Learning.

Besides this humanitarian undertaking, students have spearheaded other efforts that fueled change at the administrative level.

Last spring, the University saw a vast reduction in plastic bags at campus dining facilities as a result of the “bring your own bag” campaign led by students with a vision for a more sustainable campus. Once the University implemented the policy, students were restricted to a semester quota of 15 plastic bags. Exceeding this limit could be met with a 25 cent charge per additional bag. The policy has effectively decreased plastic bag usage on campus.

Peaceful, committed student activism and a willingness to cooperate have the power to change longstanding conventions. No Sweat, AID and the many environmental groups on campus have proven that even campaigns initially met with little interest can succeed — and without hostility. 

Activist success relies more upon collaboration and mutual understanding between student groups and University administrators. As the new school year commences, students should avoid the fall into lethargy and apathy and instead remember the recent victories of their peers. 

With patience and commitment, students can make a difference on campus. Hopefully, students can replicate the magnitude of such accomplishments in coming semesters.