...about the U of G's Corporate Agenda
Thursday, September 8, 20050 Comments
For more information on the group and how you can get involved, click here or email
The University of Guelph is a phenomenal place to live and learn, and in my years here I have learned one very fundamental thing: this place is not perfect, nor anywhere close to it. Though the buildings are beautiful, the people are friendly and the community is full of things to do and see, there are some problems which I have come to realize. In this piece I will simply touch on a few of the broad issues and in future columns, I will break them down, and explore ways in which we, as students, can work to challenge what is in front of us.
Alastair Summerlee, President of the University of Guelph has referred to this institution as the “moral and social conscience of society”, yet there appears to be many connections between the university and companies which are not so moral, and definitely not socially conscious. I believe that the University of Guelph has an obligation to deal with morally conscious businesses.
Many people when first coming to the University of Guelph, will arrive at the University Centre (UC), which will give them an initial impression of the school. When they walk in, on the left hand wall, there is a board which proudly honours companies that the university has received funding from. Funding is good, yes, but what kind of companies should we be accepting money from? Perhaps ones which portray the morals and ethics that Alastair has mentioned…but this is not the case. The University of Guelph has accepted money from many not-so-great establishments such as Rol-Land Farms, Monsanto, Kraft, and weapons manufacturer Raytheon; all companies which have, at some point, had allegations of questionable business practices put against them.
A considerable amount of the funding received by the University is in exchange for research being done, and it can be assumed that when a large corporation such as Monsanto pays for research, the results will benefit them, rather than benefiting the interests of students or society as a whole. In taking a closer look at corporations whose corporate logos are visible on our campus, there appears to be a problem. In the University Centre, there are big giants such as KFC, which has been widely accused of large scale animal abuse and torture, Taco Bell which has been accused of underpaying tomato pickers in Florida, and Starbucks. Starbucks has been accused of forcing small coffee shops out of business and of not brewing fair trade coffee on a daily basis. They claim that much of their coffee purchases are fair trade, however their fair trade purchases account for less than 1% of their annual sales, but to them that is a boastful 4000 pounds since 2000. Besides the one fair trade blend of coffee at the Daily Grind (NB. Every other Starbucks location brews the fair trade blend only once a month), there is no trans-fair certified coffee available in the UC. It seems that such a “fine” academic institution, should be obligated to purchase ethically and consciously, and to allow it's students the same option. The University did recently pass a Code of Ethical Conduct, but it has not yet been fully implemented and some doubt that it will ever be able to cover the full spectrum of purchasing that it has been touted as providing.
- To have a look at the Corporate Campus Map, click here.
Another big player in the game of corporate funding is Coca-Cola. The company is well-known for its abuse of human rights in Colombia, where they have been accused of murdering many union leaders. Coca-Cola, the multi-billion dollar company that sells bottled water at $1.90/bottle (approximately an 11,000% markup from what they pay), has machines all over our campus. Coke owns almost 100 machines on campus, charging students an arm and a leg for many nutritionally worthless products and bottled tap water (Dasani water-Coke’s brand of bottled water).
There is a problem with all of this, and someone needs to change things, but who? The highest governing body at this University is the Board of Governors (BoG), having the ability to override the decisions of the University Senate, would appear to have the ultimate power on campus, so why haven't they stepped up and said something? Why do they not hold the University accountable for the unethical business practices is companies directly tied to the university? Well, there are 24 seats on the BoG, and only 3 of those are student seats (2 undergraduate and 1 graduate), plus there are 2 faculty, 2 staff, the Chancellor and the President seats. The remaining 14 seats (a clear voting majority), are held largely by current or former corporate executives. With the BoG being controlled by private interest, so in turn is the University itself; the people with a genuine interest in the value of post-secondary education should be the ones sitting on this decision making body.
There are these and so many more issues concerning our university that need to be discussed, and have to be challenged. As students, it is our responsibility to question things around us, to ask the hard questions. We have to stand up and claim back our education system.