Columns / Discourse / Killer Coke / Student Senate / November 5, 2009

The Senate Perspective: Weighing in on Killer Coke

At last week’s Senate meeting, the campaign for Killer Coke presented a resolution to ban Coca-Cola products. Although the resolution would have been unbinding, meaning the actual abolishment of Coke products would not necessarily have happened, it would have made a strong statement about the way students feel concerning this issue. Unfortunately, the resolution barely failed by a sixteen-to-fifteen vote, with eighteen votes needed. Here are some of the reasons argued against passing the resolution and our counter points.

First, it was stated that the petition, which garnered almost 400 votes, was not a significant amount to represent the student body and that those who signed it aren’t really committed to the ideas presented on the petition. 30% of the student body is a very significant amount. Petitioning in Seymour Gallery has its difficulties—disinterest, location, and timing are always factors. The remaining 70 percent does not mean that there are one thousand people against this idea- many are indifferent and uneducated about the issue. If there was a strong movement from students to keep Coke, they did not care enough to come to the Senate meeting, and certainly have not started their own pro-Coke petition!

It was also said that if individuals were against Coke, those people should just not buy it. While it is easy to sign a petition, putting into action your commitments is different. We all know that turning off the lights is better for the planet, but that doesn’t mean that we do it. If Coke is available, people won’t always step outside their comfort zone or habits to make the right alternative choice. An institutional stance will make a much larger difference than many small individual actions.

“If we’re going to get rid of Coke, why don’t we get rid of all companies that violate human rights and ordinances?” While this is a valid argument, a step as large as that is not possible on this campus. Banning Coke would be one small step to ending at least some human rights violations in the world. And, as a first step, why not have it be the largest company involved in these problems? The TKS staff claimed that by allowing one ban to go through it would open the door to many other campaigns to happen. What would be so wrong if Knox College said “No!” to ending pain, suffering, pollution, destruction, violations of basic human rights caused by our consumptive, selfish, unsustainable lifestyles?

A loss in profit for Dining Services was also a concern. Students pay the same amount no matter what for a meal plan each term. This money will be spent on endless granola bars at the end of the term because leftover money is not refunded. Has the Killer Coke campaign not offered up replacement products? Profit acquired from Coke sales will simply transfer to other products that have the additional benefits of being local and sustainable.

Finally, the argument is made that as consumers we should have the choice to buy what products we want. Yet, do we really want the right to drink a beverage that is void of nutrition, causes significant health problems, and is completely unnecessary when there are people in other parts of the world who do not have clean water to drink, bathe in and use to grow food? We cannot justify this “right” when we, by consuming Coke, take away the most basic of innate human rights for others.

Our purpose of receiving a higher education, of attending a liberal arts college, and of gaining knowledge is to make a positive change in this world. Also, as a small, tight-knit community proud of its large number of international students, we are responsible for supporting our fellow students, some of whom have families directly and negatively impacted by the Coca-Cola industry.

Ask yourself the right questions in this debate. Do I morally stand for a company that exploits poor people? Is my rum and Coke more important than clean water for someone who is not as fortunate as me? Do I– as someone who has been handed clean water, a chance to higher education, a comfortable bed at night — have the “right” to take advantage of someone else’s life so that I can drink this beverage?

So what can you do? Don’t buy Coke products, sign the petition if you haven’t done so already and take a moment to tell your senator, “Hey, I don’t want Coke to represent myself and my school.”

Let’s take this opportunity, Knox College, to do something. No matter how small it might be, no matter how scary, no matter how different—let’s make a change! Let’s get excited to get a little uncomfortable, break out of “The Bubble”, and use the power that we have as a community to help our world become more humane, more peaceful, and more beautiful for everyone.

Creal Zearing

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