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January 05, 2006 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-01-05

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, January 5, 2006

OPINION

cbe 3,biw itui~g

JASON Z. PESICK
Editor in Chief

SUHAEL MOMIN
SAM SINGER
Editorial Page Editors

ALISON Go
Managing Editor

EDITED AND MANAGED BY STUDENTS AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SINCE 1890

NOTABLE
NUMBER
14
Number of minutes of sunshine
in Southeast Michigan since
Dec. 19, as reported yesterday
by the Detroit Free Press.

ALEXANDER HONKALA FErnr' CHUMBUCKET

420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
tothedaily@michigandaily.com

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All
other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their author.

Contemplating Coke
CHRISTOPHER ZBROZEK BORN IN THE U.S.A.

tudent activists
seeking to cut
the Universi-
ty's ties to the Coca-
Cola Company got an
unlikely gift over the
holidays. The Univer-
} sity chose to suspend
its contracts with
Coke after the corpo-
ration said it would
be unable to meet a Dec. 31 deadline for
choosing an independent auditor to evaluate
charges against it of labor and environmen-
tal violations.
The Dispute Review Board, a panel of
faculty, staff and students charged with
upholding the University's ethical stan-
dards for doing business, found last summer
after holding public hearings that there was
"credible evidence" to support claims of
environmental contamination in India and
labor abuses in Colombia. To the dismay of
many activists, the DRB then advised that
the University continue doing business with
Coke pending an investigation.
Even after Coke missed the first deadline
the DRB set - for agreeing to a third-party
audit - at the end of September, the Uni-
versity held that Coke was at least making a
"good-faith" effort. It appeared the Univer-
sity was dead-set on continuing its business
with Coca-Cola, delighting many a Coke
addict too lazy to walk all the way from the
Angell Hall vending machines to the Diag
Party Store for a fix.
Coke missed the most recent deadline
mainly due to some legal complications: It's
already facing a lawsuit over its bottlers'
practices, you see, and it would really hate
for any new information an investigation
uncovers to be admissible in that case.
Good faith, indeed.
To be fair, it's not as if Coke keeps a secret

strike force on alert at its Atlanta headquar-
ters, ready to fly anywhere in the world at
a moment's notice to kill workers who so
much as think about forming a union. But
if Coke's spokespeople are really telling the
truth when they say the claims of human
rights violations are baseless, it's difficult
to see what the company has to fear from an
investigation.
While the Coalition to Cut the Contract
with Coca-Cola has been responsible for
some of the most vocal activism on campus
recently, it has failed to connect with many
students. Isn't every other multinational cor-
poration just as bad? Why should the Uni-
versity do ethical check-ups on companies
anyway? And what sort of person with the
money to pay tuition here drinks Faygo?
Some critiques of the Coke campaign
are merely based in ideology. Others point
out the idealistic - perhaps unrealistic
- hopes of activists. All of the criticism,
however, gives short shrift to the role that
activism of this sort plays as one of the few
viable checks left on corporate behavior.
Globalization has allowed corporations to
invest in countries that previously had little
access to the opportunities that international
trade can provide. It also enables companies to
sever their ties to a particular country and its
workers as soon as unions there raise wages or
the government passes a law more favorable to
actual citizens than corporate citizens, effec-
tively shutting down the two traditional forces
able to put brakes on unethical corporate prac-
tices. The headquarters of these firms can now
disperse responsibility for a company's actions
far down its global supply chains, making it
more difficult to hold anyone accountable for
any abuses, anywhere.
By exposing unethical practices of corpora-
tions like Coca-Cola, even in far-flung lands,
activists create what the free market cannot on
its own - an incentive for these companies to

reform. The students fighting the Coke cam-
paign are in some sense the intellectual heirs
of the muckracking journalists of a bygone era.
More than the lost business, the negative expo-
sure Coke is receiving from actions by this and
other universities is forcing it to take seriously
issues that it might otherwise simply ignore.
To a lesser degree, other corporations have to
modify their own behavior, if only to avoid
becoming the next example.
It's not a perfect solution. But it makes
unique use of the environment at the Univer-
sity to push for change in situations where
individual students who conscientiously
choose not to drink Coke would otherwise
have no real voice.
As an institution, the University acts in
support of the values it holds. Its admis-
sions policy reflects its belief that the stu-
dent body should represent the diversity of
the state and the nation. It stands for making
an education at the University available to
all in-state students who are admitted, and
tailors its financial aid policies accordingly.
And the University has made a commitment
to ethical purchases, as shown by its Vendor
Code of Conduct.
There can - and should - be continual
debate over the values that guide the Uni-
versity's actions. And there's a very good
chance the University's ban on Coke will
only last until administrators work out an
agreement with Coke regarding an inves-
tigation, despite what many activists wish.
For now, however, the concerted efforts of
a group of students have not only affected
University policy in a very visible way, but
have started a real dialogue about corporate
responsibility. That might not show up in
a grade-point average, but it's part of what
higher education is about.

Zbrozek can be reached
at zbro@umich.edu.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Final play made up for
Alamo Bowl's failings
TO THE DAILY:
I am a University alum living in Kin-
shasa, Democratic Republic of Congo,
where I work for the U.S. Embassy, and I
just watched the Alamo Bowl live over the
Armed Forces Network. Of course, the end
score was disappointing, but I have actu-
ally never been prouder of the Maize and
Blue. Wow! The season was not what we
fans may have wanted, but that team is
extremely talented, as was demonstrated by
one of the most exciting examples of foot-
ball playing I have ever witnessed - the
last play of the game. It left me breathless!
Of course, there should have been offset-
ting penalties, and the game can't end on
a penalty, so Michigan should have had
another play, but oh well. And then there
was the missed call for pass interference,
which would have kept the second-to-last
Michigan drive alive with a first down, but
oh well again. None of that matters, nor
does the loss, because Michigan demon-
strated in that final play what it means to
be a team, and that is really what it is all
about. Despite the losses this season, I say
"hats off" to a magnificent coaching team
led by Lloyd Carr that can produce that
type of teamwork, athleticism and sports-
manship. Well done, Wolverines.
Katya Thomas
Alum
Carr's poor coaching lets
down team year after year
TO THE DAILY:
Dear Lloyd Carr: How many more times
are you going to put these kids through
this? You take a supremely talented team on
ai road itrip to a hior oLame:thev're hrimrninor

to Notre Dame next September (your sev-
enth straight road-opener loss) will bring
your immediate resignation?
Mark Pekalai
Alum
Tookie's efforts for peace
outweighed his past crimes
TO THE DAILY:
It is with a heavy heart that I write to you
expressing my disbelief over the execution of
Stanley "Tookie" Williams. Tookie, who was
convicted of killing four people in 1979, used
his 26 years in jail to better society in ways
that few have been able to do. A founder of
the notorious Crips gang in the '70s, Tookie
reformed his ways, writing numerous books
advocating against gangs. He served as a
peace broker, most recently in 2004, bring-
ing the warring Crips and Bloods together
under the now-famous "Tookie Protocol for
Peace." It astonishes me that in today's soci-
ety we are so ignorant to change and refuse
to see the error of our ways.
Proponents of the death penalty constantly
cite its use as a deterrent to future crime as a
reason to employ it, despite the fact that we

are virtually the only industrialized nation
to still kill its own citizens. Although capi-
tal punishment's use as a deterrent has been
proven wrong study after study, the same
people who advocate for its use refuse to
see how Williams's actions served to deter
gang violence in ways that his execution can
never accomplish. Left alone, Tookie would
have surely continued to spread his message
of peace, further making our society a bet-
ter place to live. His peace efforts have won
him international praise. From President
George Bush's letter of commendation to his
nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, people
around the world recognized that his positive
work needed to be rewarded by commutation
of his sentence to life in prison. Even the 9th
Circuit Court of Appeals, in a rare move,
recommended to then California Gov. Gray
Davis in 2002 that he commute Williams's
sentence to life in prison. Sadly, Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger refused to heed the court's
advice, and one of the great peace activists
of our time has been killed by the state. For
this, I call on University President Mary Sue
Coleman to fly the University's flags at half
staff in his honor.
Peter Borock
LSA sophomore

LETTERS POLICY
The Michigan Daily welcomes letters from all of its readers. Letters from Uni-
versity students, faculty, staff and administrators will be given priority over others. Letters
should include the writer's name, college and school year or other University affiliation.
The Daily will not print any letter containing statements that cannot be verified.
Letters should be kept to approximately 300 words. The Michigan Daily reserves
the right to edit for length, clarity and accuracy. Longer "viewpoints" may be arranged
with an editor. Letters will be run according to order received and the amount of space
available.
Letters should be sent over e-mail to tothedaily@michigandaily.com or mailed to the
Daily at 420 Maynard St. Editors can be reached via e-mail at editpage.editors @umich.edu. Let-
ters e-mailed to the Daily will be given priority over those dropped off in person or sent via
the U.S. Postal Service.

Editorial Board Members: Amy Anspach, Andrew Bielak, Reggie Brown, Gabrielle
D'Angelo, John Davis, Whitney Dibo, Milly Dick, Sara Eber, Jesse Forester, Mara Gay, Jared
Goldberg, Ashwin Jagannathan, Theresa Kennelly, Mark Kuehn, Will Kerridge, Frank Man-
ley, Kirsty McNamara, Rajiv Prabhakar, Matt Rose, David Russell, Katherine Seid, Brian

I

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