Campus / Killer Coke / News / November 5, 2009

Killer Coke sparks debate

Student Senate did not pass a resolution to terminate the sale of Coke products at Knox College.

The resolution, proposed by campus group Estudiantes sin Fronteras, came before senate at its October 29 meeting. Had the resolution passed, the proposed Coke ban would have been put to Dining Services for deliberation and denial or action.

Dining Services declined to comment about this issue.

Members of Estudiantes sin Fronteras became passionate about the elimination of Coke at Knox during fall term of last year when a documentary was screened at the Human Rights Center. Killer Coke highlights the negative impact of Coca Cola bottling plants on laborers in Colombia, South America. The documentary also points out the dangers of Coke’s aggressive marketing style.

“You’re tasting advertising,” said junior Gabe Paz, Safety and Services chair and member of Estudiantes sin Fronteras.

Paz stopped drinking soda a long time ago for health rather than ethical reasons. He admits that he occasionally purchases and consumes Coke products “sometimes on accident.”

“There are so many,” he said.

“If we were to get rid of all Coke and Pepsi products, the C-Store would be empty,” acknowledged Paz, but he stressed the importance of avoiding defeatist attitudes.

Estudiantes sin Fronteras member Rosie Worthen also hopes students will change their perceptions of the issue.

“People are taking a negative tone. This is trying to make a first step. That’s a positive thing,” she said. “We hope people become more open to things outside of their sphere, their country [and are] able to see what’s being done in our names as America.”

Worthen is concerned that there may be some dissonance between senate’s opinion and that of the rest of campus, as a petition to ban Coke that began circulating spring term of last year garnered just under 400 signatures, a significant percentage of the campus according to Estudiantes sin Fronteras.

Senator Mike Herbert voted against the resolution.

“As a senator, my job is to execute the will of my constituents. The majority of mine, and, arguably, the majority of campus, do not want a Coke embargo,” said Herbert.

Herbert went on to dispute Estudiantes sin Fronteras’s method. In response to the organization’s proposal to bring three new brands of soda to campus to replace Coke, he offered a less dramatic shift.

“If they are so obviously better than Coke, word around campus will spread, Coke sales will dwindle and [Dining Services] will pull their products,” he said.

Worthen does not believe the Coke ban is as threatening as many students perceive.

“We are getting away from consumer rights,” said Worthen, “but for people who really want to get a Coke, The Quickie is two blocks away.”

According to Paz, a muddled senate meeting hindered the cause.

“I would say the rules of order, at the time, impeded the flow of information,” he said.

He went on to say that the discussion in senate was unnecessarily difficult.

“I thought the debate was silly — it was a circus, it was a bad car crash,” he said. “Topics were everywhere, tangents were plentiful, just when one person understood what they were talking about suddenly five others didn’t.”

Junior Tim Lovett argued that Student Senate was wrongly employed in this situation.

“I am not opposed to Killer Coke,” he said. “I am opposed to Student Senate being utilized to impose a supposed moral superiority upon the student body that is not reflective of the student mind set.”

Worthen welcomes students with contradictions to present their views to Estudiantes sin Fronteras.

“We’re not on a moral high horse here,” said Worthen. “If you have conflicting arguments, let us know.”

She stressed the importance of taking a small step to combat a large issue.

“As an institution, we can make a statement. We can give water to a community,” she said.

Senator Herbert questions this philosophy.

“Someone might offer the argument that Coke is merely a start in a greater plan for the campus to crack down on amoral corporations,” he said, “but […]why Coke? What is Students Without Borders’ motivation behind focusing on Coke? And once we do start, where do we get off of the slippery slope?”

Paz also has an enduring faith in the power of “one step.”

“My father has an expression, ‘You can’t eat an elephant in one sitting, you have to cut in up into pieces,’” he said. “We have to cut up this elephant of bad things.”

Estudiantes sin Fronteras intends to return to Student Senate with a new edition of the resolution as early as winter term.

Sarah Colangelo

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