Pacific Peak, the clothing organization known for its environmentalist flair, is treading warmer waters this week, as administrators have expressed concern about the group’s operating policies. Citing the Blue Book rule that prohibits students from running on-campus businesses, two high-level deans asked Pacific Peak to rethink its status as an organization on campus.
Jennifer Elliott ’94, Dean of Students and Residential Life, and Fernando Alonso, Dean of Administration and Finance, met with Will Kantaros ’18, Pacific Peak’s Chief Operating Officer, and David Tsai ’18, the company’s Chief Business Development Officer, on Tuesday.
“It was a very productive meeting,” said Kantaros, who oversees all of its day-to-day operations and financial affairs. “We got to tell them more about who we are and what we’re about. It was a very open dialogue, we were very honest with each other, and we didn’t want to feel as if we were cheating the school or going behind the school’s back at all, and they felt the same way.”
In recent weeks, administrators have been wary of how Pacific Peak’s business could hurt the school’s non-profit status, said Alonso. He confirmed that this concern prompted the recent intervention.
In early September, Kantaros reached out to the Athletic Department about “sponsoring” team apparel. He proposed that the clothing company be the school’s go-to manufacturer for team apparel; Holden Ringer ’17, Captain of Andover Boys Cross Country, expressed interest in Pacific Peak managing his team’s apparel. That prospect was soon shut down when Leon Modeste, Athletic Director, told Kantaros that the school was not allowed to conduct business with students, said Kantaros. At the beginning of October, Tsai was in contact with Chris Capano, Director of Student Activities, and Elliott. He asked if the five Cluster Deans could incorporate a Pacific Peak video into last week’s All-Cluster Meetings.
Elliott responded by scheduling a meeting with the group’s leaders to confirm that the organization was non-profit, which is not the case, said Kantaros. Due to time constraints, however, the meeting never happened, causing the video to not be shown. Kantaros explained that Pacific Peak then sought to sponsor the Class of 2018’s apparel, coordinating T-shirt designs with 2018’s Class Representatives and Advisors.
Elliott, however, then emailed Kantaros and Tsai earlier this week, instructing Pacific Peak to sever all plans for sponsoring apparel until the company received approval from Alonso, as well as Maureen Ferris, Director of Risk Management, and Andrea Nix, Chief Finance Officer, said Kantaros.
On Tuesday, Elliott and Alonso met with Kantaros and Tsai. The aim of the discussion, said Alonso, was to figure out how Pacific Peak could still operate without interfering with the school’s non-profit status.
“We explained to Ms. Elliott and Mr. Alonso the intent of our company and the impact we wish to have on this campus,” wrote Tsai in an email to The Phillipian. “Knowing that we now have the school’s support, we can focus on our mission to promote environmental awareness on and off campus.”
Kantaros and Tsai walked out of the meeting with three options on the table: become a club, operate off campus, or close up shop.
Currently Pacific Peak is not formally recognized as a club, which restricts it from attending club rallies and thereby prevents students from joining under the same circumstances other clubs follow. If it does become a club, Pacific Peak would host weekly meetings to educate students on environmental issues and give participants a chance to be involved in its clothing affairs, said Kantaros. But he’s concerned that becoming a club would cause the team to lose its autonomy.
“Pacific Peak, for me, has been a great learning experience in running a company and working with individuals as a group, and creating and selling a product, and operating a business. I personally feel that, as a club, we’d be giving away some of those powers and some of that freedom, and we’d be handing it over to the school. That’s my biggest hesitation,” said Kantaros.
The second option involves distancing the organization’s operations from campus. As Pacific Peak operates in 30 schools across six different countries, the group believes that, if it shifts some of its practices off-campus, it should be recognized as an ordinary company in the eyes of the administration.
“I asked Mr. Alonso a few times what it meant to be operating on-campus as a business. Legally, we’re run out of Boston; our address for the company is in Boston, and we have workers and members of Pacific Peak all over the country and in South Korea as well,” said Kantaros.
“If the list of things that would make us as an off-campus entity is fairly simple to accomplish, then it should be a pretty easy fix – like if that means not shipping our shirts from Andover’s mailroom or not using Andover’s servers to edit our website,” he continued.
Even if Pacific Peak decides to become an off-campus entity, the group’s members are still technically at risk of receiving disciplinary action. The Blue Book, on page 40, designates “running or serving as an agent for any business while on campus” as a Major Offense, which, the rulebook says, oftens warrants a Disciplinary Council meeting to determine formal punishment.
“There is a third option and that is: Pacific Peak gets shut down in its entirety. It’s currently doubtful that that will happen,” said Kantaros.
Pacific Peak’s ethos is its commitment to protecting the environment and informing students about environmental causes, said Kantaros. All of the profits that Pacific Peak generates, as they claim, are donated to environmental organizations.
“Our company is centered around the environment, and even though our entire planet is being affected [by climate change], one of the most commonly known bodies of water is the Pacific Ocean,” wrote Tsai in a previous email to The Phillipian.
From last February to May, Pacific Peak has made four donations to The Climate Group, a non-profit organization that promotes clean-energy policies, totalling 3,650 dollars.
Recently, Pacific Peak launched a Kickstarter to crowdfund its initiative to use 100 percent recyclable materials in its products. Out of its 9,000-dollar goal, the team has raised 8,345 dollars, at the time of printing.
Pacific Peak has garnered a fair amount of fanfare over the last year. The company’s signature T-shirts and light-blue hats have become a fixture on campus.
Nicole Cho ’19, who has modeled for the company on its Instagram page, owns two of its shirts.
“I really like their cause, because it supports the environment. I just think it’s really nice to do. They donate a lot of their profits to different associations,” said Cho.