Guelph students vote to switch from Coke to protest alleged human rights violations

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Nearly 65 per cent of University of Guelph students recently voted in favour of switching their exclusive soft-drink beverage supplier from Coca-Cola.

The votes were cast in an online student referendum held from March 19 to 23. Of 4,780 votes, 3,080 students voted in favour, 1,228 voted against and 472 declined to answer.

“It isn’t about banning Coke from campus, but letting students make their own ethical choices,” said Becky Wallace, academic commissioner for Guelph’s Central Student Association and a member of Students Against Sweatshops. “If the students go to the cafeteria and they want a soft drink, they are forced to drink Coke.”

Wallace said Students Against Sweatshops want at least one or two options to be available on campus, including at least one ethical choice.

Lori Bona Hunt, spokesperson for Guelph university, said the contract with Coke isn’t exclusive.

“It’s only a contract with Hospitality Services and its cafeterias, but vending machines in student-run facilities and bars aren’t part of it,” she said.

While in the past, the university has responded to student concerns by saying it can’t do anything since it’s bound by contract, Wallace said the contract ends in August.

“It’s frustrating though, because we can make all the recommendations we want, but it’s still a small group of administrators who decide, so we have been putting a lot of pressure on them to listen to the community,” Wallace said.

Bona Hunt said factors like price, service, delivery and variety are considered in the contract process. While she said the university will consider the referendum’s results, she noted the university is also part of a consortium of three units, including the University of Waterloo and Windsor.

“[Waterloo and Windsor are] not bound to it, but they would have to consider going out on their own,” Bona Hunt said.

Frank Miller, director of Hospitality Services at Western, said Western’s contract with Coke lasts four more years.

“We’ve had nothing but good service and good back-up,” he said. “We’ve been with this contract for six years and I haven’t had any phone calls or e-mails protesting.”

Fab Dolan, president of the University Students’ Council, said the USC doesn’t have any exclusivity contracts. He added The Spoke and The Wave serve Coke because they had to pick one company to rent the fountains from, but in Mustang Alley, both Coke and Pepsi are sold.

Dolan said when this issue was raised this year, “the Board took the stance that exclusivity agreements should be open and transparent for students.”

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