The Student Organization Accounts office plays a vital role in many functions directly affecting students and their experience at IU.
The SOA website describes itself as the entity that “provides fiscal oversight and banking/bookkeeping services to student organizations as recognized through the Student Life & Learning (formerly Student Activities) and the Residential Program and Services Offices.” It is also responsible for enforcing a troubling spending restriction on student organizations and RPS staff through an arrangement with Coca-Cola.
The SOA posted Nov. 25 a whisper of an announcement on their website stating organizations purchasing beverages for any on-campus activity must restrict their brand choice to Coca-Cola products.
Simply put, this means if an organization wants to buy beverages for which there is a Coca-Cola product, that organization may only buy a Coca-Cola product and nothing from the company’s competitors.
This is frustrating to the Editorial Board in both large and small scales.
IU receives a lot of money by selling what is known in the trade as ‘pouring rights’ to Coca-Cola. It is basically a fat, seven-figure check given to the university with a contract regarding vending, advertising and — apparently — IU organization spending.
This happens at colleges across the country where Coca-Cola and Pepsico duke it out for the brand loyalty of millions of young Americans.
And it isn’t just the big soda companies. IU has a similar deal between our athletic organizations and Adidas.
Perhaps private corporations’ deep infiltrations into state universities to the point of controlling certain university policies doesn’t trigger an unease akin to you swallowing a pack of Mentos and then shotgunning a diet soda.
Consider, then, the effects on students at the micro-level.
This policy is telling student organizations how to spend their own money — in many cases, how to spend money the organization raised independently of Coca-Cola.
Sure, Coca-Cola offers plenty of options. Beyond the Coke clan, you can also choose from Sprite, Mello Yello, Fanta, Fresca, Minute Maid, Vitaminwater, Monster brands, Gold Peak, FUZE, Honest Tea, Powerade and others.
The Republican Party similarly has quite the vast array of possible nominees. It doesn’t mean we should be forced to select our next president exclusively from that pool.
IU’s Student Involvement Fair is coming up shortly after the new semester begins. A new and small organization may want to hand out free bottled water to help stand out in the throng of tables representing clubs and groups vying for students’ membership.
This new and small group has an SOA account, as advised by the IU Office of Student Life and Learning during the student organization legitimation process. With their small treasury now in the grasp of the SOA office, they can’t save money on cheaper Kroger water. It’s Dasani or nothing.
Incoming freshmen, you want your RA to throw fun floor events with free food, right? If the SOA forces the RAs to drain their tiny budgets on the pricier soft drinks, you can expect fewer pizza parties.
And then there is the possible conflict of values for student organizations. What if a club morally opposes Coke because of a cause they represent — protecting American youth from acquired diabetes, for instance?
Maybe the Editorial Board wants to start the Even Though We Know We’re Wrong We Love Buying Pepsico Products Club. That’s going to be a parade of awkward conversations between this hypothetical club and the SOA office.
RPS and student organizations like Union Board and IUSA have major influence on the experiences of the IU student body. This may seem more like a protest on a matter of principal.
However, it doesn’t sit right to allow a private, outside, multi-national corporation to make decisions for students that should be made directly by the students themselves.