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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Student-led shirt initiative leads to UJ deliberation

Published: April 27, 2007
Section: News

The practices of, a student-led screen printing initiative, have led to a possible Union Judiciary investigation, sources said Thursday. The debate comes after student allegations of undue pressure on student clubs, as well as a conflict of interest between the Finance Board and CampusShirts founder and former Finance Board member Jacob Bockelmann 09. was established in February 2007, when Bockelmann became an independent contractor for Tom Bernardo Embroidery & Screen Printing, who had previously printed shirts for the Student Union and Student Events. The business has since printed shirts, bags, and pants for over 30 student clubs.

According to Bockelmann, Ill beat or match any price [and] Ill deliver anything free of charge, whether its to your dorm room or office or wherever it may be. He added that he would also beat or match any price from any competitor.

However, some students have felt that Bockelmanns role as a former Finance Board member was a conflict of interest: It is more just an ethical or moral issue that I have brought up. As a member of the finance board, you control over $1 million dollars that is being sought by many members of the Brandeis Community, said the plaintiff, who wished to remain anonymous. Having heard of [Bockelmann] handing out his business card to various club members seeking funds would only give for silk screening;

I feel as though this creates a conflict of interest.

The plaintiff also alleged that because of Bockelmanns previous ties with the Finance Board, clubs were pressured to purchase their items solely from Bockelmanns company. He is taking advantage of his position to promote his and only his company. This prevents the free market here at Brandeis, the plaintiff added. When one takes a job, they normally are told they cannot endorse any other company or product. This is exactly what he is doing using his position in the Student Union to promote another company for which he receives a kick back.

Bockelmann, however, said that this was the first he had heard of any complaints. I dont know what the conflict of interest is, because Im no longer on the finance board. The finance board, to my knowledge, at least when I was serving on it, they could recommend a vendor, but they couldnt dictate who they purchased from.

He added that, despite the plaintiffs charge that Bockelmann was taking away the free market at Brandeis, [Student Union Treasurer] Choon [Woo Ha 08] has made it very clear, the Union is not in a position to grant any sort of sole sourcing contract with me or anyone else I welcome competitionif someone can supply cheaper shirts, thats what a capitalist society is all about. No one is forced to buy anything from me or any vendor.

When asked about the case, Union Judiciary Justice Sean Patrick Hogan 07 would not elaborate on whether or not he felt the complaint was legitimate, only stating that the UJ had not decided whether or not to grant cert to the case.

Union Treasurer Choon Woo Ha 08 said that as the Treasurer, I believe that a personal and an independent business should not be associated with the Student Union Government in any way. One should not take advantage of the fact that [they are] a government official;

furthermore, one should not solicit his or her position in order to gain personal benefits from business point of view.

He added that however, I also believe and trust that Jacob knows this and that he will act professionally in regards to this. When asked directly if he believed any unethical behavior had occurred, Ha said I have not dealt with him personally in regards to his business, so I am not sure whether he has or has not taken advantage.

One of the main complaints about CampusShirts was alleged misconduct against the Womens Rugby Team, where the plaintiff claimed that Bockelmann convinced the Finance Board not to finance jerseys with embroidering. Ha said that I believe the reason why the F-Board did not fund that specific request was because it believed it was not that essential at the moment.

Bockelmann added that the jerseys were produced by an outside company, the company that made the mens rugby jerseys. The F-Board makes these sorts of decisions all the time that lacrosse stick is too high quality, that drum set is too expensive The same applies to embroidery or screen printing. The point is, the meeting I suggested that I could do it, and the club respectfully declined and got it made from another company.

Many of Bockelmanns other customers said that they were pleased with their experience with Suri Ellerton 10, who ordered shirts for the Brandeis Ensemble Theatre, said I just remember that this was cheaper…but we got each shirt for twelve dollars. It was long sleeved and also American Apparel which was great because it was sweat shop free. He also delivered it to my door, which was wonderful and they cleaned up the [shirt] picture [for] no extra charge.

Members of Student Sexuality Information Service (SSIS) agreed: The experience was great. The price is pretty decent, especially since you have so much choice I found that Jacob Bockelmann was extremely helpful, and did everything he could to make sure the product was exactly what we wanted, even when we weren't sure what it was we wanted, said Leah Berkenwald 07. He may be manipulating the market to become the sole distributor, but since he is not jacking up the prices everybody wins.