While speaking on the phone with a friend who works at another institution, I was flipping through my favorite seasonal supply magazine. They have all sorts of things in there, from cups to craft items and even a large selection of decorations. I was commenting to my friend how excited I was to receive the magazine, as it was a nice thought break in the middle of a very busy week. I arrived at a page with an image that is becoming all too familiar. It was an image of what appears to be, a white man and woman. That though, isn’t what surprised me. It was that they were wearing ponchos, sombreros and stick on mustaches. I had commented to my friend how insensitive this seemed to me and that perhaps I should reconsider purchasing from this magazine in the future. We changed topics a few times and shortly after our phone conversation ended, but I still couldn’t get that image out of my head. I also considered the title of the magazine itself and how that could be not so politically correct.
I’ve done some digging into the latter and found that the company was established by an immigrant and has kept its name, as it was chosen by that founder. The company’s history page pays homage to its humble beginnings, but is primarily used to show the growth that has occurred since its founding. So, I’ll go back to the insensitive photo.
Since the conversation with my friend and reading a bit about the company, I have considered a few things and am sharing them with you so that you may consider them for yourselves and potentially share your views in the comments. Should colleges and universities consider the ethics/views of the companies we purchase supplies from? Should that be considered if we are not purchasing the product in the offensive section or picture? Should something be said to the supplier?
As the primary purchaser for my department, I find myself a bit torn. In an effort to conserve funds amidst a budget cut and also continue to hold high quality programs, I find myself wanting to continue purchasing items from this company. On the other hand though, money talks. If I am spending funds on goods from a company with ethics/views that do not align with my institution, what am I saying to my students and other staff? I also thought about which products I would be purchasing and it would not be those in the picture, as they serve no purpose in our programming, but I still come back to that inner conflict.
Then the next thing that came to mind is do I contact the supplier and convey my disappointment over this image, to them? On a personal level I have contacted companies before to relay a concern or questions about content, but in this case I would be contacting the supplier about something a bit larger than just myself. Is it still a personal contact or would this message be on behalf of my institution? I still find myself wanting to make contact with the supplier and most likely will, but doing so on a more personal, than professional basis.
While I am still conflicted, my current plan of action is to reach out to the supplier to express disappointment in their picture choice, but also to consider other cost effective suppliers should their response be unfavorable. I hope that in doing so the supplier realizes that a mistake has been made, but until then I’ll be flipping through different magazines and catalogs for my thought breaks.
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