Swarthmore Removes Some
Coca-Cola Products from Campus
College Calls on Company to Allow Investigation of Violence Allegations
SWARTHMORE, Pa.-Swarthmore College is removing bottled Coca-Cola products from some of its dining facilities and again calling on the company to permit an independent investigation into allegations of complicity in anti-union violence in Colombia.
The action, prompted by the urgings of student leaders, follows the College's decision in 2005 to vote in favor of a shareholder resolution calling for an independent investigation of Coke's practices in Colombia, and an October 2005 letter to Coca-Cola by the Swarthmore administration expressing concern about its alleged human rights abuses.
"Having received hundreds of petition signatures from students, the College administration has agreed to hold Coca-Cola accountable for its actions," said Zoe Bridges-Curry, a first-year student from Jacksonville, Fla., and a leader in the campus "Kick Coke" campaign. "By exercising its power as a significant purchaser of Coke products, the College is demonstrating the same values of social responsibility that it teaches in and out of the classroom."
The College's new action concerns bottled Coca-Cola products served at Swarthmore's snack bar and two coffee bars, including Coke, Diet Coke, and a variety of other soft drinks, juices, and water. It does not immediately affect the "fountain" Coke products served through company-supplied dispensers at the College's snack bar and Sharples Dining Hall, which is subject to a contract between the College and company that runs through 2007. "Coca-Cola's responsiveness to the concerns of the Swarthmore students and administration will play a large role in determining our action when it comes time to consider renewing that contract," said C. Stuart Hain, associate vice president for facilities.
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," Bridges-Curry said. "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 shareholder and consumer of Coke, Swarthmore not only has a larger financial tie to the company, but it can use its influence as a prestigious and ethically intelligent institution to help effect positive change in the corporation's practices."
Swarthmore joins 10 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 fall 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 a nationally acclaimed weekly program syndicated to a growing number of radio stations around the country.
Also 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.
Located near Philadelphia, Swarthmore is a highly selective liberal arts college with an enrollment of approximately 1,500. Swarthmore is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country.
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