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Beverage contract hearing open to public Thursday

By Elaine Andrecovich / Correspondent
The Daily Targum

The opinion-thirsty negotiating committee for the University's exclusive beverage contract will hold an open forum Thursday to hear students' input and opinions on the contracts.

Under the current University beverage contract - which has been in place since 1994 - only Coca-Cola products can be sold and purchased at Rutgers in exchange for Coca-Cola's $1-million yearly deposit to the University.

The forum, organized by the Office of Student Affairs, will be a place where students can come to discuss their comments and concerns on the current Coca-Cola contract to the negotiating team for the beverage contract. The committee is made of faculty and two students: Board of Trustees Rep. Kate Innerfield and Cook College Council President Justin Fincher.

"I'm picturing [Thursday's forum] really to be a place where people come and state their opinions on the contract," said Charlie Sams, director of Dining Services.

"This is a chance for people to [include] their input into the discussion [and say] things they want [the committee] to know about," said Vice President for Student Affairs Gregory Blimling.

The negotiating team for the exclusive beverage contract is currently in the process of writing up a request for proposals, which will seek out companies who want the contract with the University. While there are many options, the competition is really narrowed down, Blimling said.

"The two companies most likely to compete [for the exclusive contract] are Coca-Cola and Pepsi, but [the proposal] will be made available to any company which wants to bid," Blimling said.

If there are any strong opinions voiced about either the current beverage contract or the one being drawn up by the committee, Blimling said the concern will be addressed before the proposal is actually finalized.

Not only will the contract affect the University's New Brunswick campus, but Newark and Camden as well, which is why forums will also be held there next week.

Blimling said students should expect some changes possibly in the price and brand itself, seeing as though the last contract is still on 1994 prices.

"One of the goals we have is to keep prices for beverages as low as possible to ensure the cost of variety of beverages is as low as possible," Blimling said. "We hope to get a price less than the wholesale price."

Blimling also went on to say that if the University ended up with a Pepsi contract instead of Coke, there would be changes to more than soda throughout the University.

Currently, there are Minute Maid juices, Nestea iced-tea, Powerade sports drink and Dasani water, which all have an association with Coke. If the University switches companies, "there may be Tropicana juice or Gatorade [sports drinks]," Blimling said.

"Negotiating this is fairly a complex task," he said.

In 1994, the University became one of the first institutions to develop an exclusive beverage contract. Soon after, large institutions like the University of Florida, University of Iowa and the University of Massachusetts followed.

"It is most economical to the institution and kept the prices lowest to the students," Blimling said of the benefits of having a contract exclusively with one company.

But the opinions of the faculty and the opinions of the student show disparity.

"I understand that contracts are needed, but with anything the more options available, the better for all," Cook college junior Bobby Tupe said.

Douglass College first-year student Lorraine Oeters said she feels the exclusive beverage contract forms a monopoly.

"It isn't fair to have only one manufacturer's products on campus," she said. "Most students are limited to purchasing or consuming what is available on campus, and whether it's a matter of preference or refusing to fund a company whose policies you don't support, the lack of choice is really detrimental."

Still, others - including students involved in the Killer Coke campaign - are pressuring students to speak against the Coca-Cola contract because of the company's alleged series of human rights violations in Columbia last year, which may have included the murders of union leaders.

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