The recent closed-door meetings between Concordia’s administration and PepsiCo. are indicative of a worrying reality on campus. Nearly every service we consume—from vending machines to food-service outlets and classroom materials—is governed by exploitative, exclusive corporate contracts that have ceased, long ago, to benefit students.
None of this was organized by students or with the best interests of students or Concordia’s long-term strategic sustainability policies in mind.
Indifference to student and environmental recommendations, as well as an undisclosed amount of prospective PepsiCo. dollars, has led to an administrative decision to quietly renew an exclusive contract to furnish the school’s vending machines and lock us into five more years with the soft drink goliath.
This decision was made for you, the student, on behalf of the higher-ups. After being shut out of the renewal process despite months of demanding a transparent negotiation and open dialogue about the harms of bottled water and exclusivity contracts, students will now have to contend with the results.
The problem is, in this model of university-as-corporation, the “shareholders” the university has to satisfy are not the students—they are the companies that have a stake in an exclusive presence on campus.
Decisions are not made to provide students with the options they want in the realm of food choices or need in the realm of materials for scientific studies or other academic endeavours. Decisions are made so that the university can profit by getting as cheap a product as possible to distribute to students. And, companies like PepsiCo. are rewarded with exclusive rights to the eyeballs of Concordia students.
Most egregiously, the Concordia administration clearly violated the spirit of their own strategic framework to becoming a national leader in sustainability.
By allowing for the continued sale of bottled water and PepsiCo. products on campus, with no local competition or alternative to enter the bid, the administration ignored its own policies, which stipulate that it must “consider life-cycle costs and impacts when assessing products and equipment for procurement.”
The official Environmental Policy also states that, “when possible [the university] will tender to suppliers that are local and/or committed to environmental sustainability.”
Clearly, the waste accumulated by discarded water bottles would fall under this policy and PepsiCo. is not a local tender.
Universities are held to a higher standard than corporations; the environmental policy of the school directly addresses this fact. If it weren’t, then why not have advertisements in textbooks? Why not give classes on cola-beverage taste-testing—brought to you by PepsiCo.? Why go to class at all? We could just invest in the school and watch as their stock-price goes up or down depending on their new decision to give an exclusive contract for one-ply toilet-paper.
Our school is not a corporation. As a result, decisions like the unilateral renewal of our exclusive contract with PepsiCo. have to take into account more than just the bottom line. Schools have obligations that go above and beyond the obligations that PepsiCo. has to its consumers.
—Diego Pelaez Gaetz,
This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 12, published November 2, 2010.