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Michigan Student Assembly Finds Coke Guilty
 
By Jeremy Davidson
Michigan Daily
February 23, 2005

The Michigan Student Assembly voted yesterday to support the actions of the Coke-Campaign Coalition, an anti-Coke group, and also to accept the allegations brought against the soft-drink giant regarding human rights violations.

When the vote passed, many members of MSA's Peace and Justice Commission, and dozens of representatives from the Coke-Campaign Coalition fell silent.

Though the coalition had been fighting for this resolution to be passed, it was unexpectedly modified during the meeting and when voted on did not include language that would demand the University to terminate its contract with Coca-Cola.

The Coke-Campaign Coalition, which consists of 11 student activist groups on campus, brought this resolution to MSA as a part of a world-wide campaign against Coca-Cola, accusing the company of significant human rights and labor violations.

But before the vote, in an unexpected move, MSA President Jason Mironov proposed two revisions to the resolution; one, that the resolution be divided into two parts, and the second that, instead of demanding the University terminate its contract with Coca-Cola, the resolution state that the MSA will stand behind the actions of the Coke-Campaign Coalition. Mironov said he separated and amended the resolution in order to divide the question into two distinct elements.

The revision that toned down the language of the resolution was reworded to give credence to the Dispute Review Board, which looks into allegedly unethical practices of University business partners. The board consists of faculty and students, including members of MSA and Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality, Mironov said.

The coalition said it was more disappointed with the second revision because its members felt the resolution lost some of its power.

"It's still important that (the resolution) passed because it's significant that this student government supports the Coke-Campaign Coalition," RC Junior Ashwini Hardikar, co-chair of MSA's Peace and Justice Commission, said, "I am disappointed that we chose to tone down the language."

The resolution was divided into two parts; the first dealt with whether MSA believed in the allegations brought against Coca-Cola, a measure that the assembly approved.

Hardikar described the vote as a victory for the coalition.

"The first resolution that confirmed Coke's violations was passed without any changes, putting the student government in solidarity with the people of Colombia and India," Hardikar said.

Because students have protested and complained about Coca-Cola, Purchasing Services at the University has started a formal investigation. It is currently gathering information to present a recommendation to the Dispute Review Board, which is composed of students, faculty and staff.

The Dispute Review Board will make a recommendation to the University's executive vice president and to the chief financial officer.

University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said the resolution would play a significant part in the overall decision to renew Coke's contract in June.

Members of Purchasing have been gathering information from both sides of the issue, and have already met with Coca-Cola. Purchasing will meet with members of SOLE and the coalition today. Accordng to Peterson, Purchasing will take MSA's resolution into serious consideration when advising the Dispute Review Board.

"It's important for purchasing and the review board to understand students' opinions on this issue," Peterson said.

"What's important is that the student assembly has unanimously supported student groups who are pursuing justice on the Coca-Cola issue," said RC junior Ryan Bates, co-chair of MSA's Peace and Justice commission.

Megan Zeller contributed to this report.

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