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Beverage contract open to students

By Staff Report
The Daily Targum

Perhaps the only chance for the University community to help decide what it wants to drink for the next 10 years will come 4 p.m. today in Trayes Hall A & B at the Douglass College Center.

There, the University will hold a public hearing on the exclusive beverage contract, taking public comments on whether to switch to Pepsi-Cola, keep Coca-Cola or do something else entirely.

The University has until May to decide, when the 10-month extension on the exclusive beverage contract expires. In 1994, the University entered into its contract with Coca-Cola, where it promised to sell only Coca-Cola in exchange for $1 million from the company every year for ten years.

A negotiating team of administrators, faculty and two students - Board of Trustees Rep. Cait Innerfield, a Rutgers College junior, and Cook College Council President Justin Fincher, a junior - will oversee the event. It will serve as a forum 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 Office of Student Affairs is organizing the forum. Executive Vice President of Student Affairs Gregory Blimling said the proposal for a beverage contract will be made available to any company that wants to bid.

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

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 on those campuses next week.

The American Association of University Professors plans to deliver a statement condemning Coca-Cola for its alleged labor practices in Columbia, said Amy Bahruth, a University lecturer.

Others said they will go to the forum to simply say which drink they prefer.

"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.

Students offered mixed opinions on the beverage contract. Some said they liked the idea of different beverage choices.

"Variety is something I am looking for," Livingston College senior Timothy Whelan said. "I don't even buy drinks at on-campus stores anymore because of an overkill of the same products."

Livingston College senior John Fay also said the University should try another supplier. "It seems unfair to dismiss other companies when students clearly want better choices," Fay said. "Rutgers should at least try different beverage companies and see which ones fit best at the University."

Krupa Patel, a Cook College senior, said the contract should not be exclusive.

"Even though Coke is giving the University a million dollars a year, they are still taking tons of money from its students," Patel said. "I think their monopoly isn't totally fair. Let us give our money to a different company for a change."

Huss Harb, a Livingston College senior, said the contract is at odds with the University philosophy.

"We are supposed to be about diversity," he said. An exclusive contract would be the antithesis of that. "There could be no contracts, different options," he said. "Other major companies do the same bad things that Coke does."

Some students said they hoped Coca-Cola would stay.

"Being a Coke drinker, I am happy with the current situation," said Jessica Updike, University College senior. "If Rutgers were to sign with Pepsi, I would not buy as many drinks from on-campus stores."

Others said they were indifferent.

"There are a lot of people who don't even buy drinks from campus stores, me being one of them, said Livingston College junior Jared Bench. "I personally don't care either way about the contract."

Rutgers College senior Mike Kush said he prefers water.

"The only product, to my knowledge, that Coke offers that is not filled with sugar is their Dasani water," Kush said. "I can get water for free at my place."

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, Blimling said.

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