University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh becomes first “Fair Trade University”

The news from Chancellor Richard H. Wells that UWO would become the nation’s first fair trade university was the only announcement met with applause during Tuesday’s opening day ceremonies, Wells said.

Fair trade certified products – which are produced under sustainable, decent and fair labor conditions – will now be available at university dining establishments, catered functions and in department offices when possible.

Colleges and universities selling fair trade products is nothing new, but the difference in this case appears to be the source of the proclamation and the scale. The magnitude of this announcement cannot be ignored as the Chancellor of a large public university is declaring the campus-wide use of fair trade products. Nevertheless, there are several concerns with the “Fair trade University” label. One could easily view this as another example of an attempt to address an issue solely through consumption.

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