Members of the Coke Campaign Coalition have sent a letter to several University administrators requesting a meeting to discuss concerns about the way the University is reviewing the contract with Coca-Cola.
The University’s Dispute Review Board, which is investigating charges of unethical behavior by the Coca-Cola Company, held a closed meeting on May 9 to reach a decision whether to maintain the University’s contract with Coke. Despite finding evidence to support allegations of pesticides in Coke products in India and labor violations in Columbia, the DRB has not yet released a final recommendation regarding the University’s business with Coke.
One of the University’s contracts with Coke will expire June 30.
The letter sent by the student coalition alleges that the DRB’s decision to hold its final deliberations in a closed session constitutes a violation of the state’s Open Meetings Act. Although there are some exceptions, the Open Meetings Act generally requires public bodies to allow public access to their meetings.
The University has held that as an advisory board, the DRB is not subject to the Open Meetings Act.
University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said previously that a Michigan Supreme Court case in 2000, Federated Publications Inc. v. Michigan State University Board of Trustees, allows the University to hold closed advisory-board meetings.
In the letter, the students also express concern that the DRB has not taken adequate measures to ensure student representation on the board.
The DRB’s procedures state that two of the board’s seven members should be students. Following the May 9 meeting, LSA sophomore Julia Ris resigned from the board.
Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality, which has previously suggested members for the DRB, supported the nomination of LSA sophomore Ben Grimshaw as a replacement.
Although MSA President Jesse Levine has spoken with Grimshaw, the DRB has not yet taken action to replace Ris, said RC junior Clara Hardie, a Coke Coalition member.
According to the DRB’s procedures, members of the DRB are chosen by the University’s chief financial officer.
Peterson said the offices of University President Mary Sue Coleman and Chief Financial Officer Timothy Slottow, as well as DRB member Dennis Poszywak, had received the students’ letter Friday.
‘The University is considering the concerns raised in the letter,” Peterson said. She added that the University may not meet the students’ request that a date for a meeting between students and administrators be set by today.
Students involved in the campaign against Coke were not pleased with the pace of the DRB’s process.
“People across the country and world are very concerned about what is happening at Michigan,” Rackham student and coalition member Andrea Samulon said.