UConn Facemasks Show Commitment to Human Rights Along With Public Health

Megan Walsh '21 (ENG) wears a UConn facemask while standing near Swan Lake on Aug. 28, 2020. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The message has been loud and clear since UConn announced it will be opening campuses for in-person classes: this will be a semester like no other in the history of the University.

One of the clearest signs of that is also one of the ways UConn is helping to ensuring the health and safety of its community: the requirement that all students, faculty, and staff wear face coverings while on campus. UConn is providing two washable, cloth facemasks to ensure that measure is followed.

The facemasks are solid blue and feature the now familiar “UConn Nation: Physically Distant, Socially & Globally Connected” logo, which depicts the statue of Jonathan outside Gampel Pavilion.

The production of these masks are an example of how UConn has established itself as one of the premier institutions in the country in the area of human rights and ethical sourcing. They were manufactured by Alta Gracia, the only verified living-wage brand in the developing world. Located in the Dominican Republic town of Villa Altagracia, the Alta Gracia factory produces apparel sewn by workers who are paid a living wage, are represented by a democratic union, and face none of the abusive labor conditions that continue to plague apparel workers around the world.

“UConn’s support of Alta Gracia is continued proof that we are willing to lead among our peers in support of human rights,” says Kyle Muncy, UConn’s Director of Strategic Partnerships. “We are fortunate to have a dedicated group of colleagues around campus to make these initiatives a priority and allow us to put our money and support behind our mission.”

Muncy serves on the Board of Directors of the Worker Rights Consortium and is the chair of the President’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility at UConn.

Over the past several years, UConn has partnered with Alta Gracia on projects that have resulted in the giveaway of more than 25,000 living wage t-shirts to students by Orientation Services and UConn Alumni.

In April 2020, Alta Gracia added the production of reusable cotton masks to its line, and UConn has supported those efforts with the purchase of nearly 110,000 masks to date. Any internal vendors contracted with UConn have been asked to source masks through Alta Gracia, while retail partners are encouraged to consider Alta Gracia for its entire line of products in support of a living wage and worker rights.

“We are proud to be able to work with and supply UConn masks, tees and other apparel. The continued partnership of universities through these uncertain times has been the cornerstone that has allowed the Alta Gracia Living Wage project to survive,” says Alta Gracia Chief Executive Officer John Allen. “The only way for that mission to succeed is the continued support from the students, faculty, and administrators who through their voice and actions demonstrate their understanding of the need for equity in a global industry where so many are taken advantage of.”

Alta Gracia Chief Security Officer John Renzi adds: “I’m proud of how we’ve been able to pivot operationally in order to offer living wage PPE to indispensable partners such as UConn. It’s customers like them that, by deliberate choice, have allowed us to keep all of our living wage workers fully employed through the present crisis.”

UConn and its retail partners, Barnes & Noble (UConn Bookstore) and Dyehard Fan Supply (Huskymania Fan Shop, shop.uconnhuskies.com), also have a variety of UConn masks and neck gaiters for sale to allow fans to show their Husky pride and socialize safely. Proceeds from the sale of masks will benefit the UConn Students First Fund.

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Alex Clonan ’22 (ENG) wears a UConn facemask while standing near Swan Lake on Aug. 28, 2020. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Masks for residential students in Storrs were placed in rooms prior to move-in, while in Stamford, they were distributed by the campus director.

The Office of Off-Campus and Commuter Student Services has made outreach efforts to property managers near the Storrs campus. Packages of masks are being delivered to some of these apartment complexes, and property managers will distribute the masks. Complexes include: Celeron Square, Colonial Townhouse, Oaks on the Square, Eagle Court, Meadowbrook Gardens, Norwegian Wood, Orchard Acres, Windham Park, Carriage House, Trail Run, Walden, and Woodhaven Park. Continued outreach is being made to other properties.

Additionally, masks are available for pick-up by commuter students at the UConn Bookstore on  the Storrs campus.

Masks are available for all commuter students at the Hartford, Stamford, Waterbury, and Avery Point regionals campuses, in addition to the UConn School of Law.

Masks have been distributed for faculty and staff to departments, divisions, schools, and campus. Employees who have not received their masks should contact their supervisor for more information.