By Andrew Fraley
Wondering why all the Coca-Cola machines on campus are empty? This is because, as of June 19, Stony Brook University has entered into a new ten-year exclusive contract with Pepsi. As the transition is being made over the summer, new Pepsi machines are replacing all of the old Coke machines, and will be ready for the fall semester.
For the past three years, Stony Brook University has been under pressure for selling Coca-Cola products, due to the company’s alleged workers’ rights and environmental violations throughout developing nations. In a drive led by The Social Justice Alliance (SJA), and supported by numerous other on and off campus organizations, many Stony Brook students protested the University’s contract with Coke. For more info regarding these protests, check out Issue 10, Volume 29 of The Stony Brook Press from the Spring ’08 semester.
But this comes as a bittersweet victory to the SJA and other student groups involved in the campaign. While their ultimate goal to remove Coke from the campus was realized, the administration refused to recognize the groups’ accomplishments. “…The administration not only refused to let us take part in the announcement they sent out, but they also did not acknowledge the fact that SJA, and other organizations supporting the campaign, influenced this decision,” said Anita Halasz, member of the SJA, Graduate Student Organization (GSO) and student member of the evaluation committee for the new contract bid. The SJA and other groups played a vital role in pressuring the administration to make these changes. Their work with SINALTRAINAL led to numerous resolutions calling for the ban of Coca-Cola products from organizations, including the GSO and the United University Professions (UUP).
While Stony Brook successfully removed Coke from its campus, other SUNY schools missed the opportunity. Albany has, in fact, renewed their contract with Coke. “Albany had the same information as Stony Brook in front of them about Coca-Cola’s abuses, along with a petition signed by over 1,200 students. For them to ignore the petition, the United University Professions (UUP) resolution, the GSO resolution and all the documentation of Coke’s abuses raises serious questions about the democratic nature of Albany’s decision,” said Jackie Hayes, member of Students for Workers’ Rights.
The contract is another exclusive deal with another major corporation. This is not considered ideal by the SJA and other activists involved with the campaign, but it’s a step in the right direction. As Charlene Obernauer, SJA member, noted, “…no workers in Pepsi’s bottling plants have requested solidarity from international human rights activists.”