Students’ views on Coca-Cola issue

By neglecting to adequately represent Colombia, the forum ran the risk of giving an unfair advantage to Coca-Cola.

The failure of the Minnesota Student Association Forum dedicated to discussing Coca-Cola’s contract with the University was a disappointment to the entire community. The forum had the potential to be an enlightening educational event. MSA sponsored the forum exclusively and they were responsible for contacting representatives, and Students United for Corporate Responsibility and Ethics was more than willing to help them. Unfortunately, when the date of the forum arrived, there was no way it could have been successful at adequately educating the public about this issue.

Additionally, I would like to correct the statement that the speaker from Students United for Corporate Responsibility and Ethics canceled. There was never a speaker from the group confirmed to speak at the forum. A couple of days before the forum, we contacted MSA after Students United for Corporate Responsibility and Ethics was asked by La Raza to represent the student view of the issue, which we were more than willing to represent. Before this phone call, our group and MSA had not been in contact since a brief conversation during the summer.

After we contacted MSA, it became apparent that they thought we could legitimately represent all of the workers in Colombia. However, we are only students and have not witnessed the atrocities in Colombia. Therefore, we could not adequately represent Colombian workers. If we would have agreed to speak on behalf of Colombia, we would have done the issue a disservice.

Furthermore, it would not have been constructive in reaching the objective of the forum, which was education through thorough representation of all sides of the issue. Therefore, we refused. We were shocked and disappointed that MSA considered students to be legitimate representation for the workers in Colombia.

It is also necessary to clarify why the India Resource Center withdrew from the forum. The India Resource Center agreed to participate in the forum, understanding that a representative from the union in Colombia would also be present. When it was discovered that there would be no such representative, it became apparent that the forum had to be postponed. MSA asked University administration if it was possible to postpone the forum, but they said no. It is unclear why MSA felt they had to gain the administration’s approval when the forum was exclusively sponsored by MSA. The India Resource Center’s decision to withdraw from the forum was a collective decision made in solidarity with the workers in Colombia, who could not be adequately represented at such short notice.

Students United for Corporate Responsibility and Ethics’ aim is to bring attention to the claims of people all over the world who are affected by Coca-Cola’s unethical business practices, through direct communication with those most affected by the company’s behavior. By neglecting to adequately represent Colombia, the forum ran the risk of giving an unfair advantage to Coca-Cola.

We hope that, despite these setbacks, we can continue to successfully educate the

University community regarding the allegations against Coca-Cola and convince the University to reconsider its close relationship with the company until these issues are resolved.

If you want to know more, today at 6 p.m. in Blegen Hall, Room 235, Amit Srivastava from the India Resource Center will be giving a presentation on the allegations against Coca-Cola in India.

Amelia Smith is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]