For the past few weeks, student organizations have faced confusion over what beverages they can distribute on campus. While the administration claims that a memo sent out to clubs was meant to encourage a marketing deal, the campus organizations claim the feeling they got was much harsher.
The confusion was caused by an e-mail sent out by the Student Activities Office, informing on-campus organizations of an exclusive contract USF has with Coca-Cola.
Jeff Mack, the assistant vice president for Campus Business Services, said distributing non-Coke products throughout the campus population is not specified in the contract.
He said, however, in return for USF’s distributing only Coke products, the University receives a substantial amount of money.
“As part of the contract, there’s a sponsorship fee of $400,000 the University receives each year,” Mack said. “There’s also a commission the college receives from vending machine sales.”
Mack said the purpose of the e-mail was to inform students about the contract and encourage them to distribute only Coke products at club events.
However, President of Oushi Anime Anissa-Marie Harris said the e-mail and a subsequent visit by a member of Auxillary Services presented a stricter view of the contract.
“The way it was explained to me was that it wasn’t encouraged that we use Coca-Cola,” Harris said. “It’s been made out to many of us that there are no ifs, ands or buts about it. If you’re having a fund-raising sale, you must sell Coca-Cola products.”
Two weeks ago, Harris said she and other students received a visit at the Bull Market from a representative of Auxillary Services who asked students and vendors to take down displays featuring non-Coke products.
In addition, Harris said there is confusion among whether organizations will be allowed to serve non-Coke products at club meetings and private events.
However, there is a provision for students and their guests that allows them to consume their own non-Coke drinks on campus.
Harris said the contract’s stipulations potentially hurt her club.
“It’s still a matter of confusion for us,” Harris said. “Not selling Pepsi products we could understand, but we sell Japanese soda as well. We’re not sure where that falls.”
Harris said if clubs are prohibited from selling ethnic sodas, multicultural clubs on campus might suffer.
“It’s starting to step into what a club stands for, if you want to have a multicultural feast and aren’t allowed to serve cultural drinks,” Harris said.
Mack said students can distribute other non-Coke products without fear of disciplinary action and that USF simply encourages students to use the products for the monetary benefits the University receives.
He said free Coke products are available to student groups who apply for them.
“There’s a fund that Coke has put aside,” Mack said. “Student groups or activities can apply for the product for their event. By contacting our office, there’s a process we follow so we can distribute the product equally.”
Harris said while she agrees the contract should be followed because it benefits the school, she’s frustrated because she learned of it only because her club was selling non-Coke products at a fund-raiser.
She believes the contract should be more visible to clubs that want to set up events.
“We’ve been selling Ramune and Pepsi products at Bull Market at least since 2004,” Harris said. “It’s only recently come to our attention. It’s something that should have been in the Student Handbook or on the activities Web site.
“It’s just frustrating to face trouble over a rule you didn’t know existed. The only clue there’s an exclusive contract is that only Coca-Cola is sold around campus, but that doesn’t tell a student organization that they aren’t allowed to provide non-Coke products.”