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USF denies request to ban Starbucks from campus

The letter to President Rhea Law was crafted with the intention of starting the discussion at a “point of goodwill,” according to Will Mleczko, Students For Socialism (SFS) president. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/UNSPLASH

USF leadership denied a student organization’s request that Starbucks be banned from campus, according to a statement released Tuesday on the group’s Instagram page.

Students For Socialism (SFS) issued a letter requesting the ban to President Rhea Law on Jan. 21, demanding a definitive response by the end of January. 

Paige Beles Geers, Law’s chief of staff, responded to SFS through email on Sunday informing the group that USF will take no action about the cause raised in the letter.

There are two Starbucks locations on the Tampa campus. One is located in the Library and another can be found at Pinnacle. 

At the beginning of the fall semester, a third Starbucks location in the Tampa Bookstore was replaced by a Kahwa Coffee shop.

Related: New Kahwa Coffee shop opens in bookstore, replaces Starbucks

SFS President Will Mleczko said the organization’s intention was to start the communication about the subject in a diplomatic way in the letter shared on their Instagram page

While waiting for an answer, SFS’s expectation was that the request would be denied. 

Before the rejection from Geers, Mleczko said SFS would “escalate demonstrations and tactics” if they didn’t get a definitive answer from USF.

Mleczko didn’t clarify what the demonstrations would entail. 

In the letter, SFS lists Starbucks’ union dismantling, unethical labor practices and suing Starbucks Workers United for their pro-Palestinian stance as “egregious crimes” the corporation has committed.

Israel and Palestine supporters alike have been calling for Starbucks to be boycotted since the beginning of the conflict. Starbucks released a statement in October 2023 stating it “has been and remains a non-political organization” and neither Starbucks nor Howard Schultz provide financial support to Israel. 

Related: PHOTO GALLERY – Student organizations March for Palestine – The Oracle

Mleczko said SFS’s effort to ban Starbucks from the USF campus was in favor of increasing the power of Starbucks Workers United, composed of over 385 unionized stores and over 9500 union partners, according to their website

The first U.S. union of Starbucks workers was formed in early December of 2021, and since then students from universities all over the country have been taking action against the company for its treatment towards workers. 

At Cornell University, student efforts and protests against Starbucks led to the announcement that the university would not renew its contract with Starbucks for 2025 in August 2023.

Mleczko said SFS also intended to be clear about what they were demanding and “lenient” with administration by identifying an achievable way to achieve their goal. 

There were about 10 different organizations in the student body that signed on in support of the letter according to Mleczko. Among them were Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Students Protecting the Environment and Animals through Knowledge (SPEAK) USF.

“We wanted to make it clear that this is something that a lot of students would support,” he said.

Related: USF pro-Palestinian student group files lawsuit against Florida – The Oracle

Senior biomedical sciences Kim Nguyen said although other students might not agree with SFS’s request to ban Starbucks from campus, there are other coffee shops to go to on campus such as Bay Coffee and Tea Company, Kahwa Coffee and Buddy Brew Coffee.

“I care more about human rights than just a cup of coffee,” Nguyen said.

Freshman medical technology major JiWoo Kim said students would miss Starbucks if the ban had been put in place, but not as much if there was a good replacement. 

“People are used to it as a part of their daily routine,” she said.

Amelia Rodriguez, SPEAK USF’s social media officer, said the ban proposal was not for or against USF students – it’s about something above USF.

“This is simply to take action about a great injustice that’s happening,” Rodriguez said.

The chief of staff’s email reads that “any decision is made with the best interests of the student body in mind.” But for Rodriguez, a decision about this matter should not be made to benefit USF students.

“This is something that’s above our university,” she said. “This is simply to take action about a greater injustice happening.”