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SAI Presents Campaign Against Coke

By Kelsey Ackerman
The Chronicle - News
3/3/05

Students Against Injustice (SAI) presented President Stuart Rabinowitz and University administration with a campaign to end the University's exclusive contract with Coca-Cola.

On Feb 11, SAI members met with Rabinowitz, along with Vice President of Financial Affairs Catherine Hennessy, Senior Vice President for Planning and Administration Patricia Adamski and Vice President of Campus Life Holly Seirup to discuss the groups 57-page portfolio entitled, "The Truth About Coca-Cola: What kind of Company Represents Hofstra."

The portfolio includes research documenting Coca-Cola's human rights violations in El Salvador, India and Columbia. There are several articles about student activism at the University against the contract, a list of over 80 universities currently involved in a campaign against Coca-Cola and financial information, including a possible alternative to the Coca-Cola contract.

"President Rabinowitz said that they are leaning towards 'carving' up the contract and not renewing the exclusive contract," Vanessa Cudabac, member of SAI and a Latin American and Caribbean Studies major, said.

Cudabac was also told that Coca-Cola has rights to "first negotiations," according to the contract. She said Rabinowitz is interested in the alternate company that SAI had proposed and reassured them he would have the final say in the matter and the board of trustees would not play a role.

"This summer is when the contract runs out," Cudabec said. "So this is when change can actually happen."

On Feb. 25 a representative from Coca-Cola was in the Student Center handing out free sample products. Several SAI members repeatedly confronted her about the human rights violations committed by Coca-Cola.

"She seemed indifferent and tried to belittle my knowledge on the subject," Cudabec said. "Even after I explained to her that I was a member of a Committee for Social Justice in Columbia, a delegation that met with media, congresspersons, NGOs and the union workers themselves."

When the students attempted to give her written information backing up their statements, she refused the material, Cudabac said. She was described as rude, disgruntle, rolling her eyes at the students and slamming a coke bottle against the table.

SAI has been fighting the exclusive contract for the past three years; they have met with Rabinowitz on four separate occasions, conducted over-night sit-ins and have collected over 1,000 student signatures for a petition.

It started when Vanessa Cudabac attended an anti-IMF rally in Washington D.C in 2002. At this rally is where Cudabac first learned about the anti Coca-Cola campaign. After learning about the many human rights violations around the world that Coca-Cola is attributed to, including Columbia, El Savador and India, she came back to the University and started the campaign.

Since then SAI has had speakers such as union leader Juan Carlos Galvis, Luis Adolfo Cardona and Javiaer Carrerra come to the University and speak about their personal experiences about Coca-Cola bottling plants in Columbia. Also, SAI has met with Rabinowitz on four separate occasions, conducted an over night sit-in in front of the presidents office to prove just how serious they were, and have gotten over 1,000 University students to sign a petition stating their personal dissatisfaction with the contract.

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