Coca-Cola outlives controversy

St. John’s has no plans to re-evaluate its contract with Coca-Cola, even after learning of the allegations brought against the soft-drink giant by activist Ray Rogers and his group, Killer Coke.

Anne Marie Schettini-Lynch, the assistant vice president and associate treasurer of business affairs for St. John’s, said that the University has long been aware of the claims made by Killer Coke, and has deemed the response of Coca-Cola to be sufficient.

“We’ve been following these issues since pre-contract,” Schettini-Lynch said. “We’re continuing to address these issues with them and we constantly have dialogue with them.”

Although she said it was against University policy to give details of the contract, Schettini-Lynch said that it was initiated last year, and that Coca-Cola was chosen after a process of review and consideration.

“It’s a normal contract review and evaluation process,” she said, adding that the decision was not based solely on the economic details of Coke’s offer.

“It’s about student service and [other factors], not just the money,” she continued.

Schettini-Lynch also mentioned that one factor was the lack of a large number of candidates available.

“There aren’t that many options out there,” she said.

Killer Coke accuses Coca-Cola of being involved in the murders of eight union leaders in its plants in Colombia. The site has been operating for several years and has persuaded a number of American colleges to end their contracts with Coca-Cola or ban the company’s products from their campuses.

The Web site claims that the union leaders were killed by violent Colombian paramilitaries between 1989 and 2004, and that the same men have kidnapped, tortured or threatened hundreds of others. Coca-Cola has denied that they are connected to the murders in any way, saying that Rogers is “using one death to initiate a campaign,” referring to a man whom they claim was killed for working with the bottlers in Colombia.

Killer Coke reports that 21 colleges have ended their Coca-Cola contracts worldwide, many after visits by Rogers and subsequent student protests. The University of Michigan, Rutgers University, and New York University are some of the most notable institutions to have cancelled their contracts with Coca-Cola.

Asked if new developments in the story would change the University’s position, Schettini-Lynch declined to make a specific comment.

“I don’t want to say what we would end up doing because that wouldn’t be fair to Coke,” Schettini-Lynch said, “but we’re going to constantly evaluate it and do our own investigations.”

Schettini-Lynch also was reluctant to comment on the decisions that other colleges have made on Coca-Cola based on the Killer Coke campaign, saying that “every school has their own issues and decision making processes.”

She also said that so far, the University has been very satisfied with the service provided by Coca-Cola and their communication with the university.

“Pre-contract we had a lot of discussions with them on what we needed to see, their involvement and their communication with us,” Schettini-Lynch said. “They’ve lived up to those obligations.”