Soda puts UA on thin ice
One of the little-known freedoms we take for granted in this nation is the freedom of soft drinks.
Last week, the Arizona Daily Wildcat reported that the University of Arizona vending contract may be granted to a single vendor for the first time in 25 years. This contract would give exclusive rights to the soft-drink vendor, whose products would then be the only brands available at soda fountains and vending machines across campus.
Currently, UA vending machines are an example of diversity in action. RC Cola lives peacefully next to Slice, Dr Pepper, Cherry Coke and Diet Pepsi. This exclusive contract would force all of us to become part of Pepsi's Generation Next or pledge our allegiance to the Real Thing, Coke.
Even more disturbing than this incipient move toward corporate homogenization is the effect of this contract on the employees of UA Vending Services. By awarding this contract to an exclusive vendor, the university could effectively lay off the 19 employees of this department, their jobs being taken over by employees of the vendor.
In addition to the long-term employees in the department, several are UA students who rely on the employee tuition waiver to afford school. Charles Martin, a vending route driver, has decided to "put college on the side burner."
This vending contract shows that the UA administration, in this case at least, values corporate profit over customer service and loyalty to its employees. This disregard concerning people and the effects of administrative decisions has been demonstrated in the debate surrounding the proposed Nike deal and the CatCard fiasco.
The university seems determined to be a business first and a school second.
That's fine, as long as we are not subjected to monopolistic tactics, since, as students, we are not true consumers, being unable to take our business elsewhere.
In order to head off these tendencies toward robber-baron business policies, the university community must demand an ongoing dialogue with the administration. Decisions like the vending contract, decisions that affect everyone on campus, should be open to discussion between students, faculty, staff and administration.
The administration has been anything but communicative on the vending issue, however. The Wildcat article states that "UA officials ... have been tight-lipped about their plans, saying they cannot talk about contract negotiations or bids until officials from both sides sign on the dotted line."
At that point, discussion is pointless. The time for public debate is before these deals are negotiated.