Thousands of freshman welcome free sweatshirts, don’t sweat the cost

Bri Chew/HIGHLANDER
Bri Chew/HIGHLANDER

Thousands of students lined up on Aberdeen Drive to receive a free UCR sweatshirt from ASUCR on Wednesday as part of the R’Gear initiative, a program designed to bolster school pride by providing free sweatshirts for each of UCR’s 4,000 freshmen.

The initiative was one of ASUCR President Nafi Karim’s campaign promises last year, as he noticed a “lack of campus pride” during his freshman year that has been on his mind ever since. He initially had the idea for R’Gear as a senator, but delayed making it a promise and executing it until he figured out how to implement such a large-scale project.

He hopes that the sweatshirts will “empower each incoming class” with a sense of school pride. “R’Gear is not merely a Free UCR hoodie,” Karim said. “It is something that every member of a class will share; it represents the tartan soul, Highlander pride, and a united identity.”

ASUCR senator Christian Arredondo agreed. “I don’t think that every single project that we do reaches out to as many people as this one will.”

Over 15 international manufacturers were considered, but a local vendor was chosen with what he believed to be more humane working conditions. Karim used the lower cost of the international vendors as leverage to negotiate the price from a local vendor to $7.30 per sweatshirt, a cost 48 percent lower than the initially quoted price. ASUCR did not disclose which vendor they contracted with.

Karim was unsure of the overall cost of the initiative, but estimated that sweatshirts were purchased for about 30 percent of the undergraduate population, which comes out to approximately $43,800 for about 6,000 sweatshirts. According to Karim, the funds came from existing ASUCR revenue sources, the details of which ASUCR did not disclose.

More exact information regarding the cost of the initiative could not be obtained, as both Vice President of Finance Iris Jiang and Financial Operations Manager Theresa Perez declined to be interviewed by the Highlander on the matter.

The initiative was well received by students, who were both excited to receive a sweatshirt and unruffled by the cost.

“I think UCR students put a lot of money into going to college with tuition and fees and everything, and maybe something like this shows what our money is going toward a little bit, so I think it’s pretty nice,” said first-year liberal studies major Jocelyn Rivas.

“I think they designed (the sweatshirts) really well,” said Manika Choudhary, first-year biology major about the design that ASUCR collaborated to create. “I think it’s a very good investment.”

Karim estimates that between 2,000 and 3,000 sweatshirts were claimed at the event. Free sweatshirts will also be available to upperclassmen in the coming weeks on a first-come, first-serve basis, but as of press time, the time has not been announced. ASUCR also hopes that R’Gear will become an annual occurrence so that in four years, every student will have a sweatshirt.

Wednesday’s event was attended by Chancellor Kim Wilcox, as well as student performers such as 909 Dance Crew and singing duo Nick Carrillo and Amanda Ong.

Wilcox expressed his excitement about the initiative at the event. “You’ll only be a first-year student once, but you’ll be a member of the class of 2018 forever,” he said.

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