March 31, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 95  

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Grad Club/Coke deal spurs petition

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff
Rachel Cartwright/Gazette
COKE OR PEPSI? AT THE GRAD CLUB, THERE IS ONLY ONE CHOICE. Carly Weeks, a master’s in journalism student, grabs a Coke from the vending machine in Middlesex College yesterday.

A petition currently being circulated implores the Society of Graduate Students not to go through with an exclusive deal between the Grad Club and Coca-Cola.

The petition — in addition to discouraging the deal — asked supporters to boycott the Grad Club (with the specific exception of its fair trade coffee), should the deal go through.

“Coke’s labour standards have been among the worst criticized of the world’s transnational corporations for discrimination, human rights violations, underpaying employees and culminating with, most recently, deaths and death threats to Colombian workers attempting to institute a union at Coca-Cola bottling plants,” the petition stated.

According to Chris Stroud, a graduate student involved with the collection of signatures, the petition has had significant success in its preliminary attempt to gain support.

“When regular patrons found out about this decision, many were dismayed. As opponents of the deal point out, Coke has an appalling record of human rights abuses around the world.”

He noted that the contract was sent back to Coke due to a technical problem, giving opponents of the deal more time to galvanize support. Stroud expressed a hope of having an emergency meeting, but said this would require a request from 100 graduate students.

“[The deal] would provide $5,000 per year for five years,” said SOGS president Daryl White, noting this money could be used to provide bursaries.

According to White, other products have failed to sell well, so offering Coke products would not be any different. “Coca-Cola is offering to pay to maintain the status quo — [Coke was already dominant] by virtue of consumer choice.

“The agreement went through the SOGS democratic process,” he said, noting it was brought from the Grad Club’s manager to the SOGS VP-finance, then went to the Grad Club Committee, which discussed the agreement on two occasions and voted to approve it, after which it was brought to council. “Council had a week’s notice of the upcoming motion.

“There were no ethical concerns raised at committee or council,” White said. “Our primary concern is the needs of our members — this seems to be what our members want; it went through our democratic process.”

Bruce Fyfe, the manager of the Grad Club, said Coke proposed the deal in the fall.

He noted that the alternatives to Coke products formerly offered were Dad’s, Stewart’s, Snapple, Gatorade and Nantucket Nectars. “We offered them and patrons voted with their dollars,” he said, noting none of these sold. “We are not imposing a choice, we are responding to our patron’s demands.”

“We come for the beer, we stay for the beer,” said Alex Tolson, a third-year geology student and frequenter of the Grad Club.

“The culture of the Grad Club [may be impacted] — if it was The Spoke no one would care,” said honours business administration student Sarah Tilley. “There is more of a socially responsible clientele in here.”



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