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Hofstra Faculty Passes Resolution to End Coke Monopoly

The Full Faculty of Hofstra University voted overwhelmingly on May 2 to support a resolution against the University's exclusive contract with Coca-Cola. The decision came less than two weeks after 506 students voted on a Student Government referendum to discontinue the exclusive contract garnering more support than any candidate on the ballot.

The resolution was officially endorsed by members of Long Island Teachers for Human Rights (LITHR), which is comprised of 129 members on Long Island. Thirty-six Hofstra professors from LITHR officially pledged their individual support prior to the meeting. My email mailbox was jam-packed of supportive responses from professors praising the students' muckraking and persistence.

The meeting itself was attended by approximately 130 professors from a wide variety of departments. The Business Development Center was so full, additional chairs had to be retrieved to meet the large attendance demand.

The resolution was proposed by Professor Greg Maney from the Sociology Department, and an essential ally in ensuring the issue was on the agenda. The following is an excerpt from his speech to the Faculty:

As educators, we often encourage our students to see how they are connected to the world around them. How their fates are interconnected with the fates of people living and working in different neighborhoods, different cities, even different countries. How human practices of production and consumption are connected with the quality of the natural environment... Moreover, as educators, we encourage our students to become aware of and engaged in the pressing issues of our times. In so doing we seek to make our shared vision of participatory democracy a meaningful reality...I was, therefore, particularly pleased when Hofstra students overwhelmingly passed a referendum calling upon the Administration not to renew our university's exclusive vending contract with Coca-Cola due to the corporation's profiting from human rights violations and environmental degradation...As an institution of higher education we are the voice of conscience in our society. As an institution of over 10,000 peo ple, we also have the consumer power necessary to promote responsible corporate practices. I call upon my fellow faculty members to express our strongest desire to no longer subsidize a corporation that profits from the murdering of trade union leaders, that profits from the use of child labor, and that profits from the sale of toxic chemicals.

He asked for permission for a student to speak, and I spoke for a few minutes about the rising student movement at Hofstra against Coca-Cola. I explained that I helped start the campaign at Hofstra after participating in a 2003 delegation with the Committee for Social Justice in Colombia while visiting my family in Bogota. I also gave them a brief outline of how the campaign has progressed since then through

a) a series of speaker events and workshops including union leaders Luis Adolfo Cardona, Juan Carlos Galvis, and Javier Carrera as well as Amit Srivastava from India Resource Center and Ray Rogers from Stop KillerCoke;

b) circulation of a petition which collected over 1500 signatures

c) several meetings with the administration, including a meeting with President Rabinowitz, the VP of Financial Affairs, VP of Campus Life and in which we presented a comprehensive portfolio consisting of evidence of Coca-Cola's human rights violations in Colombia, India, and El Salvador, as well as detailed information on Student Activism and alternative beverages

d) attending the Coca-Cola shareholders' meeting in Wilmington, Delaware where Hofstra students were able to confront the CEO of Coca-Cola

e) succeeding in the referendum, which is the official voice of the students

I explained that Hofstra students' dedication to promoting human rights and corporate responsibility has reached international recognition and their participation in this campaign has really put the University on the map. I also expressed how impressed and pleased we were by the level of support the faculty had already shown of the students.

There was some disagreement at first. One professor claimed that he needed to see more proof, at which point Professor Maney distributed copies of NYC Council Member Hiram Monserrate's investigative report on Coca-Cola's human rights violations against union workers in Colombia, the Human Rights Watch report on Coca-Cola's involvement in child labor in El Salvador, as well as Indian court decisions against Coca-Cola.

Another professor made a motion to postpone the voting until the next meeting. The Speaker of the Faculty, Professor Seabold quickly stepped in and explained that to postpone the decision would make the resolution irrelevant for the contract was up for renewal this summer and this was the last meeting of the semester.

Another professor claimed that this was the first she had ever heard of the issue, to which Professor Silvia Federici of New College responded, saying that this campaign has had a strong presence on campus for over a year, and that even though they are all busy, they have all had ample amount of time to research and look into the issue.

Faculty member after faculty member stood up and made statements in support of the resolution. Professor Varisco from Anthropology said that he had been perusing the case against Coca-Cola for some time and has concluded that the human rights violations in question have been proven as much as any human rights case can be. He also strongly criticized the exclusivity of the Coca-Cola contract and how it promotes monopolies.

In the end, when it was called for a vote, the room overwhelmingly voted yes in favor of the resolution, with only one professor against.

Although the formal decision is left up to President Rabinowitz whether or not to renew an exclusive contract with Coca-Cola this summer, the Students and Faculty have spoken, and our voices will not go unheard. The movement must not end here. We will continue to pressure the administration and we will continue our fight against Coca-Cola's corporate colonial empire, which has caused environmental devastation in India, assassinations in Colombia, and child slave labor in El Salvador.

The whole world is watching.

In solidarity,

Vanessa Cudabac
Campaign to Stop Killer Coke
Hofstra University