For Immediate Release: November 28, 2006
Contact: Alisa Giardinelli
Swarthmore Removes Coca-Cola Products from Campus
College Calls on Company to Allow Investigation of Violence Allegations
Swarthmore College will cease purchasing Coca-Cola products by the end of the year and again calls on the company to permit an independent investigation into allegations of complicity in anti-union violence in Colombia and water use in India. The action, prompted by the urgings of student leaders, follows a series of letters to Coca-Cola by the Swarthmore administration expressing concern about its alleged human rights abuses.
"We plan to dialogue with Coca-Cola in an effort to continue to pressure them to reform their labor and environmental rights practices," says Ruth Schultz '09, a history major from Minneapolis, Minn., and a leader in the campus "Kick Coke" campaign. "In the coming months, we will establish a set of criteria which must be met in order for the College to consider future purchasing from Coca-Cola."
Last semester, Swarthmore removed Coca-Cola products served at the College's snack bar and two coffee bars, including Coke, Diet Coke, and a variety of other soft drinks, juices, and water. This new action concerns the "fountain" Coke products served through company-supplied dispensers at the College's snack bar and Sharples Dining Hall.
Through their "Kick Coke" campaign, Swarthmore student activists have used petitions, a letter-writing campaign, and a Student Council resolution to urge the College administration to remove Coca-Cola products and to pressure the company to act on the abuse allegations.
"Many students see this action as a stand against human rights abuses and as a means of encouraging Coke to make significant and much-needed changes in its practices," says fellow student "Kick Coke" activist Zoe Bridges-Curry '09. "Because the campaign centers around the institution's contract with Coke, and is not limited to the purchasing choices of individuals, the College's action sends a very strong message to the Coca-Cola Company. As a consumer of Coke, Swarthmore can use its influence as a prestigious and socially responsible institution to help effect positive change in the corporation's practices."
"The Coca-Cola Corporation has played a major leadership role in the realm of international corporate responsibility and can surely also lead the way by taking even more definitive socially responsible steps," says Swarthmore College Vice President Maurice Eldridge '61. "We hope to continue dialogue with Coke to establish guidelines that would lead to our being able to welcome the products back to campus."
Swarthmore joins several other colleges and universities that have taken action related to Coca-Cola and the alleged abuses. Among those institutions are the University of Michigan and New York University.
The action related to Coca-Cola is one of several recent student initiatives that exemplify Swarthmore's mission to combine academic rigor with social responsibility. In 2004, the College's Committee on Investor Responsibility, which includes student members, successfully petitioned two Fortune 500 companies to broaden their equal opportunity policies to bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. That development mirrored the committee's successful action in 2003 with Lockheed Martin, which agreed to add sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policies after the College filed a shareholder resolution — the first in the country solely initiated by a college or university since the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s.
Also in 2004, students formed what is now the Genocide Intervention Network in an effort to help stop the humanitarian disaster in Darfur. In what was hailed as a victory for free speech, two students that semester won a lawsuit against Diebold, Inc., to halt the company's efforts to shut down any website that hosted or linked to documents detailing problems with the company's electronic voting machines. In addition, students last year launched an Internet-based radio program on the war in Iraq — War News Radio — which has grown into an acclaimed weekly program syndicated to a growing number of radio stations around the country.