University should cease partnership with Coke

What is the University’s motivation for signing such an agreement?

The pervasive presence of Coca-Cola vending machines on the University campus should raise suspicion in every student’s mind. What do students and the University have to gain from such an agreement? Easy access to tasty drinks? Financial help for student group events? Perhaps all these benefits outweigh the shady nature of allowing a corporation to act as a monopoly on campus.

As students in finance, economics and other business-related majors know, the goal of a corporation is to maximize their shareholders’ profits. This is accomplished by investing resources in projects which are likely to produce more money than has been invested in them. Coca-Cola’s partnership with the University is just that – a financially savvy investment which has the potential to produce millions of dollars for the corporation.

A noncompetitive monopoly of Coke products coupled with an efficient network of vending machines assures Coke steady product placement. The innumerable ads around campus allow it to form a life long relationship with students, but ruin the campus atmosphere. This is most apparent in Goldy’s Gameroom, where students can stare at the many Coca-Cola signs placed on the walls while enjoying a game of pool.

Marketing ploys, such as grants for student groups and various activities on campus, are used to justify a mutually beneficial relationship between Coca-Cola and the University. Although the sponsorship program is praised by some students, it is difficult to swallow the benevolence of Coke’s acts. Just like a commercial, these grants are a necessary expense for a corporation in order to guarantee product placement. In other words, Coke would not be funding student groups if it was not sure that it would generate much higher returns from students being bombarded with their ads and products. Thus when a campus event is funded by Coke, the real source of money is the Coke customer, e.g. the student who pays a tax in the form of profits for the corporation.

However, it is irresponsible to place all the blame on Coca-Cola Co. itself. What is the University’s administrative motivation for signing such an agreement? While financial stimuli may have proven decisive in the establishment of the partnership, was the externality of Coke’s impact on students’ health ever considered? By allowing the placement of hundreds of vending machines in campus buildings the University is promoting the consumption of these unhealthy beverages and exacerbating their negative heath effects. For example, a study by the American Dental Association found a strong correlation between consumption of pop and tooth decay. This does not seem surprising considering that drinking a can of Coke, containing 39 grams of sugar, is essentially bathing your teeth in a solution of sugar. Why is the University promoting products with such negative health effects?

There are alternatives to the current situation. A similar contract can be reached with a company whose products are actually healthy. Overcoming Coke’s marketing empire may be a challenge but the spoils of such a battle would be well worth it. If the University doesn’t want to make such efforts, it should at least act on the principle which Americans hold so dear – the free market. Allowing Coke’s competitors on campus would create an incentive for Coke to compete. These companies can also provide grants, increasing the funds available for student groups. Thus, the University’s students and administration should stop giving Coca-Cola such a sweet deal and change the partnership to work in their favor.

Vladimir Makarov is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]