Student group hopes UDS will make coffee switch

If the University changes exclusively to fair trade coffee, prices could go up.

Elizabeth Cook

Students can find fair trade coffee at many places across campus, but the Minnesota Student Association wants to make it the only kind sold.

The majority of coffee shops on campus sell fair trade coffee already, but the move is directed toward University Dining Services, which hasn’t enforced a fair trade coffee policy.

The recently passed position statement supports UDS offering 100 percent fair trade coffee in all retail locations, residence halls and catering operations.

But if UDS does make the switch, students would see an 8 to 15 percent increase in prices, from approximately $1.50 per cup to anywhere from $1.62 to $1.73.

The decision for fair trade was made because of strong student response in favor of fair trade.

In 2005, the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group conducted a survey that showed 93 percent of students surveyed felt it was important to have fair trade products available on campus.

MSA member Stephanie Payne said by selling only fair trade, shade-grown coffee, students are helping to ensure farmers are being paid fairly and not being exploited.

Fair trade is also better for the environment and women’s rights, as many women work in the fields, she said.

The position statement was a follow-up to a similar resolution MSA passed in 2001 but didn’t move any further, MSA member Julia Krieger said. The idea was to make the movement toward fair trade more concrete.

“It is something MSA stands by in terms of principle,” she said.

Advocating for human rights is something MSA has done before. In 2002 the organization urged the University not to sell sweatshop apparel in campus bookstores.

“This is a lot like that,” Krieger said. “It’s an ethics issue, and it’s something similar that the University has stood behind in the past.”

The University has a lot of buying power, which is why it’s important for administration to take a stance, she said.

According to Keri Wolfe, a sophomore and leader of the Fair Trade Task Force for MPIRG, UDS is not listening to students and only appears to support the idea.

“It’s kind of an image thing,” she said. “It’s available; they’re just reluctant to take into account what students want.”

But UDS claims to have fair trade options in every University coffee location.

Karen Devet, the associate director for UDS, said students’ voices have been listened to and that’s why all coffee sellers are asked to offer at least one type of fair trade coffee.

“Fair trade is one of the initiatives we’re exploring in terms of sustainability,” she said.

According to the UDS Web site, coffee shops in the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, St. Paul Student Center, Moos Tower and Blegen Hall, among others, already offer a fair trade coffee option.

M Deli, located in Coffman Union, also serves fair trade coffee, as do all residence halls.

For MSA, the next step involves more research and making sure students are willing to pay the extra money.

“MSA wants to be sure we represent the students,” she said.

First-year global studies student Brittany McIntyre said she sips fair trade if it’s available.

“I wouldn’t go out of my way for it,” she said.

The extra few cents the coffee costs wouldn’t bother her since she uses FlexDine and said she’s used to paying high prices.

“Everything else is overpriced at UDS,” she said.