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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    The Coke Campaign Enters the Home Stretch

    The Social Justice Alliance’s campaign against the Coca-Cola Company ended with a bang last semester, and organizers are already gearing up for what will be the final academic year before Stony Brook University’s 10 year contract expires in June 2008.

    On May 9, members of the Coke Campaign participated in a meeting with administrators, members from Procurement and the Faculty/Student Association, and, most notably, four representatives from Coca-Cola. Also in attendance was Ray Rogers, the head of the national Killer Coke campaign that has helped over 40 colleges remove Coca-Cola from their campuses. The purpose of the meeting was for Coca-Cola to respond to accusations of severe human rights violations, including complacency in the murders of nine union workers at Coca-Cola’s Colombian bottling plants and environmental degradation in India.

    The members of the Coke Campaign were given a chance to ask questions at the end of the meeting, which lasted well over the hour. Mr. Rogers, invited by the SJA, was advised prior to the start of the meeting that he was to act as a spectator at the meeting. In return, Mr. Rogers was promised a follow up meeting with the Stony Brook administrators and the SJA members later that day.

    The meeting remained civil, although tensions flared at times when the students posed a few loaded questions that the Coca-Cola representatives had to scramble to answer. Administrators agreed that the four students who attended the meeting held up extremely well facing professionally trained Coca-Cola representatives.

    In the second meeting of the day, Ray Rogers laid out his case against Coca-Cola to several administrators who were also in attendance at the first meeting. The presentation contained some strained dialogue between the Stony Brook administrators and Mr. Rogers, but all parties left satisfied with the day’s events.

    During the summer as well, the Coke Campaign unintentionally picked up a few important victories, both on and off campus.

    Last April, the United University Professions (UUP), a union representing roughly 30,000 professors, administrators, and other staff on 29 SUNY campuses, including Stony Brook University, passed a resolution banning Coca-Cola from all UUP statewide functions. The resolution also called on individual chapters of the UUP to carry the ban onto each campus in the SUNY system, and most pressing, the resolution urged UUP chapters to ‘press for the termination of contracts with Coca-Cola on their campuses.’ At a May 16 meeting of the Stony Brook University chapter of the UUP, a motion to ‘avoid Coke products’ at Stony Brook UUP events passed.

    Off campus, the national movement against Coca-Cola, the largest student movement against a single corporation since the Nike sweatshop scandal years ago, has picked up a big win as well, thanks to the Teachers Insurance & Annuity Association-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF). The financial services company deals mostly in the not-for-profit and educational sectors, and is one of the largest in the U.S. Their Social Choice Account, a $9 billion fund for individual investors that is screened to weed out companies that do not meet a level of social responsibility, recently barred any investments in either the Coca-Cola Company or its two largest U.S bottlers, citing their failure to meet the criteria established for a socially responsible company.

    Both the TIAA-CREF divestment and the UUP ban on Coca-Cola directly affects faculty and administration.

    Throughout the upcoming academic year, administration will be faced with negotiating a new contract with beverage suppliers. The obvious alternative to Coca-Cola is PepsiCo., the world’s second largest beverage company. But that alternative also does not sit well with some people. The fear is that, while Pepsi may not be as bad as Coca-Cola, they have faced a few controversies themselves. In an ideal world, says the SJA, Stony Brook would receive their soda and juice and water from various, smaller vendors, not having to rely on a huge multi-national corporation for all of the campuses drinks. The downside is that many smaller companies do not have the capacity to supply such a large school, and the amount of money that Pepsi would be able to give to things like the athletic department and scholarships would be substantially higher than any deal with smaller companies.

    Administrators have made it clear that they intend to open the bidding process to the student body, inviting selected members of the community to help advise the committee that will be reviewing the incoming bids.

    In the meantime, the SJA fully intends to keep up the pressure on campus.

    ‘It’s not just about making a lot of noise to get the administrators’ attention, it’s about educating the entire campus about what we are trying to do and why we are trying to do it,’ one member said.’

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