The University is reviewing The Coca-Cola Company’s proposal for a third-party audit of its operations in Colombia and India, where the University and a coalition of students allege the soft drink vendor has committed human rights violations.
The University received the proposal late on Friday – which was the deadline for Coca-Cola to agree to an independent audit or potentially have its contract with the University cut. In June, the University’s Dispute Review Board set the deadline when it was reviewing the alleged human rights abuses.
Peggy Norgren, the University’s associate vice president of finance, said she and Chief Financial Officer Timothy Slottow will make a recommendation to University President Mary Sue Coleman on what action to take regarding the University’s contract with Coca-Cola within the next few days. Though Norgren and Slottow can consult the Dispute Review Board, the ultimate decision on what course of action to recommend rests with them. Norgren left open the possibility that they could recommend that the University sever its ties with Coca-Cola if they find the company’s proposal inadequate.
The Dispute Review Board, finding some of the accusations against Coca-Cola to be credible, recommended on June 18 that the University review its 12 contracts with the company – which total $1.3 million – by deadlines set by the board. The outcome of reviews depends on whether Coca-Cola meets conditions set by the board.
Slottow said in June that Coca-Cola would face the serious possibility of having its contract cut if it failed to meet any of its deadlines.
Members of the Coke Campaign Coalition said they would be watching the University closely to ensure it is holding Coca-Cola responsible for its alleged abuses and following the Dispute Review Board’s recommendations.
“This is a pivotal moment for us – to see – if the University has gone back on its word,” said RC senior Clara Hardie, a member of the Coke Campaign Coalition.
“If Coke continues its dishonesty and the University does nothing, we will escalate the campaign,” Hardie said.
The coalition plans to meet Thursday to discuss strategy and welcome new members.
Coke Campaign members were upset by what they said was lack of information from the University.
“We were checking our e-mail like crazy,” Hardie said. “It’s kind of troubling that we haven’t heard anything yet.”
Hardie, RC sophomore Adrianne Miller and RC senior Ashwini Hardikar said they plan to visit Norgren’s office today to ensure the University is accountable to students.
Slottow has said he would consider extenuating circumstances and whether Coca-Cola was acting in good faith when enforcing the deadlines.
Some coalition members were skeptical of this policy.
“We are still unclear as to what the words ‘extenuating circumstances’ and ‘good faith action’ mean,” Hardie said.