At least 18 faculty members are calling on Ryerson to stop sourcing Ryerson-branded clothing from American Apparel because of what they call the company’s sexist advertising.
In the email that started it all, Joyce Smith, an associate professor in the journalism department, voiced her grievance with the company, saying its advertising “ranges from tasteless to semi-pornographic.”
Emails have been circulating since Sept. 27, rallying the support of faculty university-wide in pressuring the administration to stop buying clothing from American Apparel for Ryerson branding.
Faculty representatives were asked to wear American Apparel T-shirts emblazoned with Ryerson’s logo at September’s Ontario Universities Fair (OUF) at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Prospective students and their parents turn out in droves for this annual event, which takes place at venues across Ontario.
The OUF is a crucial recruitment opportunity for Ryerson, and is the site of many young people’s first interaction with the school.
“I just find the advertising and the way that I feel they really exploit young women just completely antithetical,” Smith said.
“I find it particularly ironic that at the university fair, here I am talking to the same demographic of young women who I feel are being exploited by American Apparel while wearing an American Apparel T-shirt.”
Ryerson sources its merchandise from a number of manufacturers, and the Campus Store makes most of those buying decisions.
Campus Store manager Kelly Abraham said in an email that the office of undergraduate admissions and recruitment bought the American Apparel T-shirts on special order, specifically for the OUF.
Smith said she reached out to Soeun Outh, manager of student recruitment, and that Outh took responsibility for placing the order with American Apparel.
Outh did not respond to The Ryersonian’s repeated requests for comment.
Marisa Modeski, assistant director of student recruitment, said their office was given options and that they considered cost, design, fabric, manufacturing, location and past feedback.
American Apparel supplied the T-shirts for last year’s OUF, and Smith expressed her displeasure then as well.
“The message I got back last year was ‘thanks very much for your input and we’ll consider it,’” she said.
Smith took a different approach this year, getting her colleagues to email Outh if they shared her concerns over Ryerson doing business with American Apparel.
This time around, “all I heard from Soeun was that they took the concerns seriously and would explore other options,” Smith said in an email.
“There are so many complex problems to solve, but this isn’t one of them,” she said.
“To me it just seems so obvious that this is a company that has chosen to brand itself using this kind of exploitive misogynistic advertising, so why on earth would we attach our name to it, much less give them money.”
University of Toronto, University of Guelph and University of Waterloo and others have also used American Apparel clothing for university branding.