Group on campus is assembling to oppose Starbucks coming to UVic

They call themselves Stop Starbucks UVic and are rallying behind the slogan #StopStarbucks

One of the many chalk messages on campus. Photo by Anna Dodd, Editor-in-Chief.

Activism is afoot at UVic as a group of students are gathering to protest the university’s recent announcement that Finnerty Express will be replaced with a Starbucks in the fall of 2019.

The group is primarily a student-led, grassroots initiative calling themselves Stop Starbucks UVic. Other UVic clubs — such as the Community Cabbage club and UVic Meal Exchange club have endorsed the movement.  

As of the time of writing, the Stop Starbucks UVic Facebook page currently has 549 likes — up from 433 likes on Nov. 16

“As students, we do not support the introduction of corporations on our campus,” reads the information section of the group’s Facebook page. “#StopStarbucks.”

On Wednesday morning, the group met for the first time. They plan to have a series of meetings to discuss strategy as well as next steps in opposing the arrival of Starbucks at UVic.

Members of the group have expressed a myriad of concerns, including the pull that corporations like Pepsi (another corporation UVic has a contract with) and Starbucks can have over the autonomy of the university’s decision-making powers. Group members fear this influence may be an issue when it comes to modifying contracts with these corporations.

The group is worried that the majority of Starbucks’ products are not fair trade or ethically sourced in spite of their branding.

Jim Forbes, Director of Campus Services, is aware that not everyone on campus is excited about Starbucks coming to UVic.

“I can understand that not everyone is supportive of this change but I have also received incredibly positive feedback as well,” he said in an email provided to the Martlet from members of the Stop Starbucks UVic group. “As an ancillary that is self-funded, we must continue to meet a range of customer preferences.”

Forbes also noted that the university plans to continue maintaining strong relationships with local businesses.

“I am very supportive of Salt Spring Coffee [and] the local bakeries who we will continue to support past Finnerty’s closure. The founder of Salt Spring Coffee Mickey McLeod and I have a long-established relationship and it was my decision to first invite Salt Spring Coffee onto campus in 2003,” said Forbes.

“While Salt Spring Coffee will transition away from the Bookstore location in summer 2019, we are in the midst of exploring other opportunities that will see the Salt Spring brand remain on campus.”

But the Stop Starbucks UVic group sees Starbucks on campus as more than just a big corporation taking business away from smaller companies like Salt Spring Coffee.

Their concerns range from the waste that Starbucks generates to the expensive cost of drinks. The group is also worried that the majority of Starbucks’ products are not fair trade or ethically sourced in spite of their branding.

The group also raised concerns over an alleged lack of transparency with the university’s consultation process as UVic has claimed they conducted a series of surveys to determine  whether or not the UVic community wanted Starbucks to come to campus. To date, the results of those surveys have not been publicly released.

“[Starbucks] is a brand that caters to a certain customer base, and it’s also a brand that represents waste.”

“Our customer base (students, faculty, staff and campus visitors) has consistently communicated through our surveys, advisory committees, and focus groups that select brands were desired to complement our extensive range of self-operated local concepts,” said Forbes in the email accessed by the Martlet.

“Starbucks has consistently been mentioned as 1 of 3 brands that was lacking on our campus.”

The Martlet reached out to Forbes for more information about the surveys, but had not received a response at the time of writing.

The members of Stop Starbucks UVic expressed concern over who would comprise the intended target market of a campus Starbucks, as Forbes stated in another email provided to the Martlet that “many of our campus visitors including CARSA field facility users, conference guests, event attendees, parents at move-in, [and] visiting scholars [who] have regularly requested a nationally-branded coffee while on campus.”

The Stop Starbucks UVic group noted that students were not included among this potential target market Forbes mentioned in his email.

“[Starbucks] is a brand that caters to a certain customer base, and it’s also a brand that represents waste,” said a member of the Stop Starbucks UVic group at the meeting on Wednesday.

As for what happens next? In spite of what seems like an already sealed deal between the University, Starbucks, and the soon to be non-existent Finnerty Express, it looks like the Stop Starbucks UVic group is just getting started.

On Tuesday morning, chalk messages could be found around campus reading the slogan ‘Stop Starbucks’.

This story is developing and will be updated as more information is made available.

This story was updated on Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 1:10 p.m.

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