A student push toward bottled water alternatives may be the reason Pepsi Co., Western's provider of cold beverages, failed to meet its beverage sales quota.
Money from cold beverage sales goes into the Cold Beverage Contract, which funds lectures, scholarships and student facilities.
The loss of income, coming amid student-led rallies to end bottled water sales on campus, has made the contract's committee dip into savings, said John Feodorov, a Fairhaven associate professor and member of the 2011-12 committee.
Students for Sustainable Water, an AS club, has led student efforts to ban bottled water.
“Water is a human right, not a commodity to be sold for profit,” said sophomore Michelle Dannehy, a member of the club.
The club hopes to foster appreciation for water, said junior Carolyn Bowie, the club's co-president.
“Bottled water has only been on the market for a little more than 20 years, illustrating one of the most successful examples of a creating a market demand for a totally useless product,” Bowie said.
“This privatization of water is a direct affront to our basic right to water in the face of a global water crisis.”
In spring 2012, the club successfully got an initiative on the Associated Students ballot to ban the sale and distribution of bottled water on campus, which passed with 73 percent approval by voting students.
Last year, the contract funded 17 projects for departments campus-wide, including the Creating Theater Workshop, the Native American Student Union Heritage Dinner and Artists Lectures from Harrell Fletcher and Wendy Red Star. In total, the contract provided nearly $30,000 to Western.
Despite the success at the polls, the vote has yet to be fully realized on Western’s campus. This is partly due to the fact that initiatives passed by the as serve only as suggestions to college officials.
“It’s a tough, slow process with the administration,” Dannehy said. “To get [bottled] water off of the campus [the administration] has to renegotiate its Cold Beverage Contract.”
Students’ votes have been heard and effected by the board of directors, but there are complications beyond the scope of the AS, Savinski said. The university has given faculty, students, administrators and employees the opportunity to weigh in, which Glemaker calls “shared governance.”
“The process of banning bottled water from campus is sensitive," Savinsky said. "As a collective body tasked to address students, [the AS Board of Directors] has been careful to ensure needs are being met, so as not to pull the rug out from underneath the various stakeholders connected to funding out of the Cold Beverage Contract.”
The five largest stakeholders in the Cold Beverage Contract are Western athletics, tutorial programs, student affairs, the post office and on-campus dining, Glemaker said.
Glemaker is concerned about the university’s ability to provide quality programs with less funding from the contract, he said.
Students for Sustainable Water organized in Red Square on April 24 to draw attention to its cause by gathering students to call Coca-Cola, Co. CEO Muhtar Kent.
The club specifically chose to call Coca-Cola because the corporation is one of the top three rights holders over water, among Nestle and Pepsi, according to report by Peter Gleick, CEO of the Pacific Institute, which conducts research and policy analysis in matters of the environment and sustainable development.
Kent was in a shareholder meeting at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, Ga, during the demonstration. Outside the meeting, representatives from Think Outside the Bottle, a campaign organized by Corporate Accountability International, sought to address bottled water concerns with the soda giant.
Students for Sustainable Water, keeping up-to-date on the activities of the Think Outside the Bottle campaign and having learned of the meeting in Atlanta, sought to echo the message.
The club provided dialogue sheets to reference when making the call. The callers were advised to specifically address Kent to request bottled water be removed from college campuses and national parks because of environmental, human rights and transparency concerns.
The students’ objective was to get enough people to call and leave messages during the shareholder meeting that the CEO would not be able to overlook their collective concern, which the club explained to students as they passed out the dialogue scripts.
The club is looking beyond Western’s campus, supplied by Pepsi Co., in hopes of addressing the global problem presented by the sale of bottled water when many people lack access to safe, healthy drinking water, Dannehy said.
“We hope to spread awareness of the presence of water in our daily lives," Bowie said. "I think, living in the Pacific Northwest, we often take water for granted because it’s so clean and abundant."