S.F. State Gives Up Millions to Block Coca-Cola

The students of San Francisco State University launched a protest and petition to reject the university’s plans to establish a partnership with Coca-Cola.

The university capitulated, deciding to eschew pursuing such a contract, according to Bay Area public radio station KQED.

Earlier this year, the university asked for proposals “from qualified firms interested in entering into a strategic partnership for Pouring Rights with respect to beverages dispensed and sold at SF State venues.” The proposal stated, “The corporate partner selected as a result of this RFP will benefit from exclusive or near exclusive rights to the sale and dispensing of carbonated and non-carbonated beverages at University operations and activities.”

The idea that their soda options would be limited offended students, who circulated a petition stating:

Pouring rights are a privatization of our public education system. Accepting money from private corporations in exchange for their mandatory presence on campus relinquishes student control over the campus environment, further exposes students to unhealthy soft drinks and corporate advertising, and undermines the integrity of public education by using compulsory policies to promote businesses that may not pursue our best interests or represent our values, such as increasing the availability of sustainable food choices on campus.

In its proposal, the university estimated an initial payment of $2 million from the winning soda company plus a minimum payment of $125,000 annually. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the contract with the soda company could “include display space for ads in all of the university’s athletic venues, the right to name the university’s athletic complex for 10 years (Coke Stadium anyone?), permanent signage on all scoreboards, product sampling events and giveaways, in-game announcements and its logo on posters, programs and season-ticket brochures.”

After the petition and protest, university president Les Wong issued a statement announcing plans to solicit a contract with a soda company would be terminated. He asserted:

After listening carefully to the concerns and information I received from our students, faculty and staff, I have decided not to move forward with the process of establishing a partnership with a beverage company.

As president, I have an obligation to explore all avenues for obtaining additional resources for our students, faculty and staff, especially as state support for public universities has diminished. This decision will mean the loss of potential funding for student programs, scholarships and athletics. I remain committed to finding ways to generate additional financial support for our students and programs, and I hope that students will join me in this effort.

At SF State, we pride ourselves on our willingness to work together to address important issues and on speaking up for the things we care passionately about. I want to thank all members of the community who participated in this process, as well as the students, faculty and staff who devoted their time to serving on the evaluation committee.

San Francisco State students are not shy about expressing their opinions; in September 2014 their student union planned a student walkout in September 2014 to honor the death of Michael Brown, who was killed in Ferguson, Missouri.

As one student wrote in the Golden Gate Express, the university’s student newspaper, Brown was a young man of color who was “brutally gunned down by the police who received impunity.”

As Adelle Nazarian of Breitbart News has written, the 1968-69 strike at S.F. State was in many ways the precursor of today’s protests on college campuses.


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