As a student of public schools all of my life, I have seen how the lack of funding has affected schools, with teachers taking pay cuts, the elimination of career centers, and art and music funding being virtually non-existent. At San Francisco State University where I’m currently a student, the lack of funding has pushed the administration to enact pouring rights -- giving Pepsi Inc. or Coca Cola the exclusive right to sell, advertise, and promote their products for eight to ten years in exchange for a significant amount of money. The University will get a one-time minimum donation of $2 million and an annual fee of $125,000. Where the money would go is still under wraps, inaccessible to students as it is a part of contract negotiations.
Students have multiple problems with this: first and foremost the process started without the authorization of the Associated Students, and sparked a protest by the students earlier this month during a presentation by Coca-Cola. President Leslie E. Wong has been very secretive, and non-transparent about the whole agreement. The process violates the shared governance that has been established on campus. Second, the chosen company will have 80% of all shelf space on campus. This is in direct contradiction with the resolution agreed on by all CSU campuses to have 20% Real Food by 2020. The pouring rights agreement on campus will limit students’ healthy drink choices on campus. It would also give control of beverage choices to the company that it would go to.
The last issue with the potential pouring rights agreement, is that a private corporation is being invited into a public institution with advertisements and promotions. This is part of a trend of the privatization of public universities and corporate partnerships that provide universities with much-needed cash. Would we be in this situation if the state provided enough funding for the university? Why should students have to sacrifice their shared governance and their health to attract corporate money to a public school?
Students have called for a Town Hall with President Wong, scheduled for early November. President Wong has not agreed to attend yet, but his office is trying to put something together so students can have their voices heard.