In case you haven’t stopped by the caf recently, the group Estudiantes Sin Fronteras has been advocating a ban on Coke products sold at the Outpost and elsewhere on campus. They’ve been gathering signatures on a petition during meal times and will be presenting that petition in front of Senate this week, asking for a recommendation to Director of Dining Services Helmut Mayer to stop selling Coke on campus.
The leaders of this campaign argue that Coke shouldn’t be available around Knox because Coca-Cola is a large corporation that violates the human rights of their workers in Mexico, is accused of using child labor and will not allow employees to unionize. Surely, personally challenging these business practices by boycotting Coke products is a good way to affect change for those workers.
However, Coke is not the only corporation out there committing these crimes against humanity. Nearly any corporation, from the banana industry to Wal-Mart, has the same disrespectful history and current business practices that have stirred the Coke controversy. If we decide to ban Coke, there could possibly be all sorts of campaigns in order to rid the campus of such corporations policies.
It could become necessary to boycott any and all products causing destruction to their employees and the environment. This includes numerous factory manufactured clothes and food items, print books in the bookstore, cigarettes, drugs of any kind, cars that run on gasoline and all meat currently served in the caf. Are those who are set on banning Coca-Cola as an option on campus really ready to give up all these things as well? Where do we draw the line from eliminating these destructive consequences?
Some who are supportive of challenging one aspect of a larger problem have a skewed worldview because even as they adhere to standards put forth by protesting one problem, they contribute to an entirely different sort of destruction. We understand that it is important to think globally and act locally in response to these problems, but a ban on legal products on campus is violating our rights as Americans to choose our products. A Coke ban is keeping individuals in our community to choose which companies we fight against, rather it makes that decision for us, and who are Estudiantes Sin Fronteras, Student Senate or Helmut Mayer to do that?
In a past article about banning Coke on campus, Rosie Worthen said the group’s mission is to “inform more people and let them make their own decisions regarding Coke products.” But banning Coke does not do that. Mayer has said he would remove Coke from campus if students stopped buying it, but sales have remained steady, even though alternative products are available. This leads one to wonder whether the group attempting to ban Coke is speaking for the majority of students or is just a loud minority on campus. The students have gathered several signatures on a petition, but it is easy for a person to sign their name to a piece of paper. It is harder for them to change their lifestyle, especially when they are forced to.
A better way to affect this change on campus would be for those who have strong feelings about Coke’s practices to lead by example and educate others to follow. They should stop purchasing Coke and other destructive products themselves, thereby living what they preach. Then, they should spread their word to others to make the decision about whether to include those products in their lives or not. If enough people become truly engaged in this issue, as they should, then the drop in consumer interest should be significant enough that it would no longer be beneficial for Coke to offer their product on campus.
In this way, most students will become truly passionate about these issues and the change will be affected by the entire community, not just a few leaders. Sure, this makes more work for those concerned with the issues, but the result will be worth it.