Corporate coffee certain on campus

Campus News

The future of Starbucks at UVic is inevitable, but it can be sustainable

Illustration by Beth May, Graphics Contributor.

The announcement that Starbucks will replace Finnerty Express cafe by the UVic bookstore was a contentious one, spurring some students opposed to the corporation’s presence on campus to form an activist group called ‘Stop Starbucks UVic’. The group’s support has only increased as time goes on.

On Facebook, the Stop Starbucks group has 825 likes — an increase of nearly 300 since our last report — and their change.org petition has received 2 281 signatures.  

“By replacing Finnerty Express [with Starbucks],” the petition reads, “UVic is sending the message that local businesses, human rights, and sustainable food practices are not important to the institution.”

These concerns were addressed in a meeting between group representative Hannah Estabrook and Director of Campus Services Jim Forbes on Jan 17.  During the meeting, Forbes said that as a self-funded institution, it’s important that UVic secures reliable revenue sources to be able to provide a high quality education to its students. Relative to the current income of Finnerty Express, the new Starbucks outlet will significantly increase revenue to the university as well as student employment at the location.  

“The decision to introduce corporate coffee on campus is certainly not a step in the right direction, so we are committed to holding the university accountable to the values and policies that it promotes.”

In an email to the Martlet, a Stop Starbucks rep said that from the administration’s perspective, “compromising on the university’s values of sustainability and local sourcing is justifiable given the opportunity to substantially increase revenue.”

The January meeting also touched on consultation with UVic students citing a 2015 survey in which 206 students requested Starbucks as a desired brand — a number ten times smaller than the petition against it.

Estabrook was told that a contract with Starbucks was already signed before the public announcement was made.

“Given that further efforts to resist the introduction of a Starbucks are apparently futile,” Estabrook said in an email, “we have turned our attention towards cooperating and negotiating with the university administration and Starbucks representatives to better align the operations of the new Starbucks outlet with UVic’s sustainability goals and student values.

“This campaign isn’t just about saying ‘no’ to Starbucks. Our movement is about working together to create a more sustainable, ethical, transparent, and community-oriented food system, and leveraging the university’s institutional power to help achieve this goal.”

The meeting concluded with an agreement that the group would meet with Andrea Timlick, Starbucks’ regional representative, within the next few months to discuss sustainability options.  Some options being put forward are a reusable mug program, curbing excessive food waste, emphasizing organic and fair trade products, and pushing for food options to meet a range of dietary preferences.

Moving forward, the group remains optimistic. “As learners, activists, progressive thinkers, conscious consumers, and engaged citizens, we know that there’s still a lot of work to be done,” said Estabrook.

“The decision to introduce corporate coffee on campus is certainly not a step in the right direction, so we are committed to holding the university accountable to the values and policies that it promotes.”