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March 23, 2006 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-03-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.



-W

WHY SO MANY STUDENTS C
ABOUT COKE, COFFEE AND
SWEATSHOPS

Suhael Momin
lucky (or unlucky,

WRITTEN BY
Daily Staff Writer
I suppose) enough

f you weren't

to wander by the Cube last Thursday, you missed
quite the sight: 10 naked college students enjoying
the balmy 39-degree day in nothing more than
cardboard and some strategically placed fabric
that kept the entire operation legal. This wasn't
hazing - apparently, that's illegal. And the students
weren't trying to show off to their peers: They were vying for the
eye of our very own 62-year-old Mary Sue

WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM
Kimberly Chou Daily Staff Writer
SOLE leapt onto the University's radar seven years ago, when its members
literally invaded President Lee Bollinger's office to protest the University's
contract with Nike. As a direct result of SOLE's actions, the University insti-
tutionalized the Vendor Code of Conduct, which requires all companies with
University business to uphold certain ethical and humanitarian standards.
Since then, it has pressured the University into joining the Workers'
Rights Consortium and spearheaded a wide variety of social justice ini-
tiatives, including this year's SweatFree campaign against exploitation
and labor abuse.
This academic year has been a banner one for social and economic jus-
tice activists. After months of agitation, the Coalition to Cut the Contract
with Coca-Cola received the best holiday present it could imagine: During
winter break, the University provisionally terminated its contract with the
Coca-Cola Company. As students finalized their Spring Break trips just a few
weeks later, the University's Residential Dining Service announced it would
serve only fair trade coffee in the residence halls.
Through their actions, activists affect
our lives on a daily basis. Whether it's
in a "negative" way (We now have to
cross State Street to buy Diet Coke)
or a "positive" one (Dorm coffee isn't
complete garbage anymore), student
activists have the power to change
the way this multibillion-dollar Uni-
versity runs.
Yet in the minds of many students,
the shadowy cadre of activists lives
behind a veil of secrecy; some sayl
they stalk the halls of East Quad
and the Residential College, plotting{
against corporations and capitalism
as they pass a hookah. Others sug-
gest something as tame (and legal)
as a hookah would never suffice.
Who are the activists who killed
Coke and brought fair trade cof-
fee to the dorms? What motivates
them, what inspires them, what
satisfies them? What are their
goals, how do they reach them

- and why should the rest of us care?
A Diverse Community ...
ocial, economic and environmental activ-
ists are a diverse group - they come
from different states and different walks
of life; they're men and women; some are
white, but many aren't. They're not all in
the RC. They're not even all in LSA.
And while many social justice activ-
ists on campus work together, belong to the same
groups and share similar values, they all have their
own personal stories.
I talked with Ilan Brandvain, a Program in the
Environment senior; he was think-
ing about socioeconomic and envi-
ronmental justice before he could
watch PG-13 movies. While at the
University, he's participated in both
the Coke campaign and the move-
ment to get fair trade coffee into resi-
dence halls.
He wasn't active in high school -
Farmington Hills, isn't a very active place
- but that doesn't mean he wasn't thinking
about the issues: He grew up attending Camp
Tavor, a Jewish.youth camp run by the group
Habonim Dror, the "Labor Zionist Youth Move-
ment." It was through mock sweatshops and discus-
sion groups that Brandvain was first exposed to many
of the issues college activists fight about. But it was his
camp counselors, his role models away from home, who
really hooked him: "Most of them grew up in the camp;
a lot of them are working toward these things. Your role
models are people who are talking about this, and they're
really cool people, so it gets you interested. I'd say that's
definitely where this sprouted."
Adri Miller, an RC sophomore and member of both

Coleman. The students, representing

the University's

Rugby

Students Organizing for Labor and
Economic Equality, were making
a statement: We'd rather be A

naked than

wear

sweatshop clothing.

SAAMIR RAHMAN

ADRI MILLER
coke coalition

ASHWINI HARDIKAR

coke coalition

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