Letter to the Editor: Coca-Cola has No Place at Mason

A giant Coke bus was on campus last Friday for a recycling event held in conjunction with Earth Week. In this letter to the editor, student Jason Von-Kundra argues against Coke's place on George Mason University's campus, both during and not during Earth Week. (TweetPic, Kevin Loker)

According to Killer Coke, a campaign against the Coca-Cola corporation, the company is guilty of a “gruesome cycle of murders, kidnapping and torture,” perpetrated mainly against union organizers in Columbia and other South American countries. In India, Coke has been accused of illegally siphoning from local ground water supplies, a practice Indian farmers say has caused severe droughts.

What was a company like that doing at George Mason University’s Earth Week celebration and why is Mason doing business with Coke in the first place?

The Coca-Cola Corporation makes more than just soda. Powerade, Minute Maid, Dasani (bottled water), Gold Peak tea (served in Southside), Vitaminwater and even the supposedly eco-friendly Odwalla are all made by Coke. Coca-Cola also owns 40 percent of Honest Tea with the option to purchase the company outright in 2011. The point is, Coke is ubiquitous; everywhere you turn there are Coke products. In fact, at Mason, Coke products are just about the only beverages you can buy.

Fortunately, people across the world are taking action against the corporate behemoth. According to the India Resource Center, "The High Power Committee established by the state government of Kerala in India has recommended that Coca-Cola be held liable for [$ 48 million] for damages caused as a result of the company’s bottling operations in [India]."

CokeJustice.org, the website for the International Campaign to Hold Coca-Cola accountable, says that over 20 colleges and universities in the U.S. and U.K. have stopped doing business with the company over the last several years. In Norway, students successfully campaigned last year to get rid of Coke on their campuses. The Foundation for Student Life in Oslo made the decision not to renew Coca-Cola’s exclusive contract that applies to colleges and universities across Norway.

United Students Against Sweatshops reports, "Rutgers University had a ten year contract with Coca-Cola that, among other things, let the company create specially designed Rutgers-themed vending machines and marketing materials. The university had received a million dollars a year in return from Coca-Cola. In May 2005 after a two year campaign around Coke’s human rights abuses, Rutgers did not renew the contract and removed all Coke products from its campus.” In addition to Rutgers, other schools that have removed Coke products from their campus include Bard College, Carleton College, Lake Forest College, Oberlin College and Salem State College.

The cause of these boycotts is simple: the Coca-Cola corporation is an irresponsible company that is causing misery and suffering all over the world.

The case against Coke goes on and on. A simple Internet search will return dozens of accusations of Coke’s wrongdoing ranging from the alleged murders in Columbia and ground water draining in India to its use of high-fructose corn syrup and aggressive marketing to children. Knowing this, how can Mason continue an exclusive contract with Coca-Cola? It’s time for Mason students to do the right thing and demand that Mason end its relationship with Coke once and for all.



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