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Students debate merits of U. beverage contract

By Kristen Hamill
The Daily Targum

The debate over whether the University should renew its contract with The Coca-Cola Company in May has left many students wondering what the other options are.

One possibility includes the availability of University-produced beverages, an idea that first gained ground last semester when Cook College introduced its Jersey Blues iced tea drink.

Charles Sams, director of Dining Services, said the request for proposal to be released this spring would allow such drinks to be sold.

The new beverage contract request for proposal will include language allowing for such beverages, Sams said.

"The University reserves the right to make available for internal-sale products like Jersey Blues that are a result of the University's intellectual and academic missions," he said. "Meanwhile, Coke has given the University an exception for the remainder of the extension for the sale of Jersey Blues."

Along with the option of University-produced drinks, some students want completely different beverage companies to be considered by the University.

University College sophomore Jessica Driscoll said she'd love to see another beverage line the shelves of vending machines and spew from the dining hall fountains.

"I do love Snapple, and they are not included in the whole Coca-Cola dictatorship," Driscoll said. "I guess I wouldn't be sad to see the contract [with Coke] go."

Driscoll also cited problems with the potential exclusivity of the contract.

"I think it's not in the best interest of the consumer, because limited choice can cause frustration with the product," she said.

Sams said that by the spring the Exclusive Beverage Committee will release the request for proposal, which he described as a "standard procurement method where the 'purchaser' describes their needs and concerns and 'vendors' respond with a detailing of their abilities and acceptance - or otherwise - of the items in the request."

He noted that this report will allow the University to more completely assess the possibility of other beverage options.

Sams also commented on the issue of exclusivity and noted that it is mainly a monetary issue.

"The exclusive nature of any beverage contract potentially allows for the institution to receive supplementary sponsorship dollars, which, in the best of schemes, are used to support whatever efforts the institution chooses," he said.

Another option that some students have suggested is having a smaller, local beverage company supply the drinks for the University.

Sams noted that there are a few glaring problems with that suggestion.

"Typically, a smaller company will find it fiscally challenging, if not impossible, to provide the product diversity and/or service strength needed to support what the [request for proposal] will describe and the University will require and demand," Sams said.

"That, however, is what RFP's are all about. That small local company is more then welcome to respond to the RFP and be measured fairly against all other respondents."

In the current contract, which expires this May, Coca-Cola provides the University with $10 million over 10 years.

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