NASPA + Abercrombie & Fitch

Update: NASPA seems to have received the message from its members that a partnership with Abercrombie & Fitch was a bad idea.

After the announcement last week about a partnership with Abercrombie & Fitch, we heard from a number of members who objected to NASPA partnering with this particular corporation. It’s important to know and to inform your constituencies that your voices have been heard. NASPA will not be going forward with the partnership. No agreements have been signed and no funds have been received. While the original decision to enter into the partnership was based on numerous conversations with the management of A&F and with many NASPA members and
leaders, based on additional information we received in regard to the business practices of A&F and the reaction of several members, I felt that it was in the best interest of NASPA not to move forward with an agreement. But most importantly, in walking away from the potential partnership, I respect the KC chairs and other leaders who, while perhaps uncomfortable with the partnership, wanted to support their professional association. I regret that they and other leaders received the brunt of some of the more vocal objections from some of our members.

Before the potential for this partnership was realized, the NASPA Board, at its July meeting, established a task force to review sponsorships for the associations. Any guidelines developed by this task force will be shared broadly with the NASPA membership.

We, in the NASPA office, want to note that in order to keep costs down for our members, we will need to continue to look for corporate sponsorships. However, we will work within guidelines established by a committee of the Board that will help us avoid situations such as we encountered with the potential A & F partnership.

NASPA remains committed to the values of diversity and inclusion. We continue to hear and respond to the concerns of our members. NASPA _is_its members and we thank you all for your support.

Apparently NASPA is for sale to the highest bidder. NASPA is one of two higher education associations for Student Affairs professionals. It was recently announced that NASPA was partnering with Abercrombie & Fitch. Specifically, A&F would be providing monetary support for the NASPA Multicultural Institute (a conference on social justice issues for student affairs practitioners.). I am stupefied by NASPA’s decision to take money from Abercrombie & Fitch. The Diversity link at the bottom of the A&F homepage focuses on the diversity (in this case, race and ethnicity) of A&F’s employees. My question to NASPA and A&F is what about the marketing of A&F products. The only people of color on the A&F site (that I see while currently browsing their site) are on the Diversity page!

A&F’s advertising (via the web and in store) is about as diverse as a klan newsletter. It appears to me that NASPA (and several other well-known and respected associations) are for sale to the highest bidder. I think that the A&F PR machine is donating large amounts of money in an effort to deflect criticism of their sales and marketing scheme. Increasing the number of employees of color from zero to more than zero does increase the diversity (see the percentage in the press release below) of the A&F workforce, but it does little to eliminate an institutionalized discriminatory corporate culture that utilizes white supremacy and sexual objectification to sell a product.

The official release from NASPA is after the jump.

NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education is proud to
announce a new partnership with Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F). This partnership will provide direct support to the NASPA Multicultural Institute, as well as support research and recognize innovative practices in multiculturalism, diversity, and inclusiveness through the work of NASPA Knowledge Communities.

Given what we know about A&F’s promotional and employment practices, we recognize that individuals among our membership may react strongly to this decision. NASPA has consulted with leaders from the ethnic, racial, gender, and sexual identity Knowledge Communities in deciding to form this partnership. These NASPA leaders felt it was important to let you know that this decision was made only after careful and thoughtful consideration and in particular, based on the following two significant factors.

First, as the leading professional organization representing student affairs administrators, NASPA has both the real capacity and ethical responsibility to positively influence the policies and practices of corporate entities such as A&F. It is not enough to cast blame and make accusations; just as we teach our students that leaders must serve an active and constructive role in helping to bring about improvement change, so must we also role model the way. This partnership will give A&F and NASPA an opportunity to learn from each other. In addition, it gives A&F an opportunity to hear from student affairs educators what we are doing to promote the values of diversity, multiculturalism, and social justice on a grassroots level.

Second, we recognize that in the past few years, A&F has made considerable advances toward increasing diversity of its associates and management. Their new diversity statement—officially supported by the company—reads: “[A&F’s] strategy for creating a more diverse and inclusive culture is focused on the elements and drivers of organizational change, including Leadership, Communication, Employee Involvement, Education & Training, Measurement, and Accountability & Policy Integration.” When you measure the change, it is worth noting that the in-store managers who are people of color has increased by 280% since November 2004. This new commitment to diversity has been demonstrated by several intentional shifts in A&F’s practices to foster greater value for inclusion, including:

· Hiring a vice president of diversity and inclusion, Mr. Todd Corley, who reports directly to the A&F chief executive officer;

· Displaying information on diversity at A&F and on the official Web site;

· Developing and launching a comprehensive staff training curriculum, with the assistance of former NASPA Asian Pacific Islander Concerns Knowledge Community National Chair Fabian DeRozario; and

· Monitoring the shopping experience of its customers by cross checking the customer comments with the race and ethnicity of the customer via its secret shopper program

As such, NASPA is proud to join other prominent associations, including INROADS, United Negro College Fund, Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, National Black MBA Association, and the National Hispanic Business Association, in supporting A&F’s commitment to diversity and inclusion within its corporate philosophy.

**Gwendolyn Jordan Dungy**
Executive Director
National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA)