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Students form coalition against Coke contract

By Kristen Hamill/Staff Writer
Issue: 3/31/05

The giant soda bottle balloon towered on the steps of Brower Commons.

"College Control - End! Coke is Pepsi," said the words scrawled on the balloon's surface.

Killer Coke Bottle

The giant soda bottle balloon towered on the steps of Brower Commons

The bottle and its message drew much attention to Brower yesterday, as a coalition of students gathered outside of the dining hall to protest the University's current Coca-Cola contract and urge the administration to seek other options when making its final decision in May.

The coalition — made up of on-campus groups including Culture Jam and RU Sustainable — provided students the opportunity to sign a petition against the University signing another Coca-Cola contract.

Rutgers College senior Laura Weitzman, who led the petition, said throughout the day she received very positive feedback from students and faculty.

"People have been coming up to us, people are excited and responsive to this issue," Weitzman said.

Mike Bacchione, a Rutgers College senior, expressed disdain for Coca-Cola and the exclusivity contract.

"I'm pretty pissed off that there's a monopoly of Coke on campus," he said. "In society, we've seen the topple of monopolies like Microsoft. Why should it be any different on campus?"

Kristen Gilmore, a graduate student, said the main impetus for this event was to make students aware of the issue and get them interested in having a voice on campus.

"We really just want the administration to know that we are concerned and we care about the issue," she said.

The two main issues anti-Coke protestors focused on, Gilmore said, are exclusivity and the ethics of the company.

The ethics of Coca-Cola has been a hot topic at the University.

A handout for the event said an official report New York City Council member Hiram Monserrate filed confirmed that the Coca-Cola Company was indeed involved in the killing of Columbia union organizers.

The handout stated that Coca-Cola said it does not have a "controlling interest" in many of their bottling plants and therefore cannot be responsible for what goes on at the plants.

Regarding the issue of exclusivity, Gilmore discussed the coalition's desire to promote the option of having a contract with local distributors.

"We want to be able to choose, and we support local distributors and urge the administration to see alternatives to an exclusive contract, [as well as to a contract] with Coca-Cola," she said.

Recently, Gilmore added, the anti-Coke campaign at the University has had a lot of success among the legislative community.

The Graduate Student Association passed a resolution against the contract, as did the American Association of University Professors and the Rutgers University Environmental Council, Gilmore said.

Part of the GSA's resolution included demanding graduate student representation in the beverage contract decision-making body. The legislature was approved, and a graduate student will be part of the final decision making process to take place this May, Gilmore said.

Photo Credit: Onnie Koski/Photography Editor

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