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					Volume 72, Issue 120, Monday, April 2, 2007

News

Coffee resolution dies
SGA questions fair trade's benefit to UH students,
new proposal to be submitted

by ROBYN MORROW
The Daily Cougar

A resolution calling for 100 percent fair-trade-certified coffee on campus died when the
University Administration and Finance committee disbanded Sunday.

Students for Fair Trade members said they intend to continue pushing for the resolution
as the new SGA administration takes office.

The 44th administration is a new session of student government. Any unfinished business
from the old administration must be reintroduced to the new administration as new
business.

Although SFT's concerns about fair-trade-certified coffee were discussed at previous
meetings of the old administration, the bill regarding fair-trade coffee was not introduced
as legislation until the last senate meeting of the 43rd administration, leaving no time for
the committee to discuss the issue or recommend a course of action on it, Vice President
Sam Dike said.

"By sending the bill to committee, we allowed the conversation about fair-trade coffee to
survive by not voting up or down on the issue just yet," Dike said. "We felt it was
important to give the new administration a chance to weigh the merits of fair-trade coffee.
There was still a lot to learn about it. We don't want to vote on something that (is) going
to bring change and not fully understand the possible ramifications of such a change. "

Esteban Tovar, anthropology sophomore and SFT member, said he felt SGA was unable
to pass the group's proposal because of a lack of knowledge on the subject. At SFT's first
presentation to SGA, Tovar said the group did not have the proper equipment to relay its
message via a PowerPoint slide show. In a subsequent presentation, Tovar said a SFT
member was allowed two minutes to respond to statements he said were inaccurate.

"We feel like the SGA was not fully informed on the issue of fair-trade," Tovar said. "We
are developing a relationship with the SGA and look forward to working together on this
issue."

SGA members, including Dike, showed concern that prices of coffee would rise if the
resolution was adopted. Dike read material given to him by SFT and also performed
online research to ensure he could find and understand the positive effects selling fair
trade coffee could have for students. He said that as a student government representative,
his top priorities are the needs and interests of the student body.

"As I researched the topic, I couldn't find a definite advantage or any direct relevance to
the student body as a whole," Dike said. "While fair trade is a noble cause that I
personally support, its mission is to help Third World farmers, not students here at UH.
There are no direct positive effects or advantages to the students at UH."

As part of his research, Dike said he found that prices for fair trade products could be
higher than regular products, which could potentially disadvantage students.

"I don't believe that student government should be in the business of telling students what
they can and cannot buy, especially if there is potential that the cost of coffee might go
up," he said. "If we do that, and the cost goes up, not only are we guilty of limiting
student options, but we're guilty of making them pay more for coffee."

Although English junior and SFT member Ross Barnard said he couldn't guarantee that
prices will not rise, he said that other coffee sellers, including Starbucks, Java City and
Einstein Bros. Bagels, sell fair-trade blends at the same prices as their non-fair-trade
blends.

"If (prices) did go up to reflect the raise per-pound of coffee -- which would be strange
considering coffee is a commodity and the price rises and falls without any direct change
of price per cup anywhere -- it would be less than a penny per cup," Barnard said.
"Consider this: The price per pound of fair trade coffee on the world market in U.S.
dollars is around $1.26, while the commodity price is around $1. A pound of coffee
yields much more than 26 cups of coffee, so an accurate reflection of cost per pound
would be less than a penny per cup."

SGA was also concerned over a lack of student support.

Tovar said, however, that SFT presented the organization with a petition of more than
500 signatures in favor of a 100 percent resolution.

"Only 1,481 students voted in the Spring 2007 (SGA) elections," he said. "Therefore, our
petition is highly representative of an active portion of the student body."

Gus Forward, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences senator, said he felt 500
signatures wasn't substantial enough for SGA, which represents more than 34,000
students, to support the resolution.

"At least two-thirds of the student body needs to be in support of this fair-trade resolution
before the Senate takes anymore consideration regarding this resolution," Forward said.
Tovar said SFT promotes its cause every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the
University Center and the UC Satellite in hopes of garnering more support for its
campaign.

"Our campaign has just begun to take shape," he said. "We are just getting off the ground
with this, (and) we are going to have a very large presence on campus in the future. We
have recently passed a proposal to draft a new resolution, which will be introduced in
SGA this month. We are not going to give up this campaign."

During a presentation at the March 21 SGA meeting, members of SFT used the terms
"slavery" and "exploitation" to describe poor working conditions impoverished workers
live and work in.

"This campus shouldn't offer anything that involves exploitation, that involves slavery,"
Barnard said at the meeting.

President David Rosen said that both sides need to work together free of emotion to pass
the resolution.

"Every time they use the word ‘slavery' or ‘extortion' or ‘exploitation' at our meetings, it
makes it a little harder for the bill to pass," Rosen said. "SGA is not a confession booth to
air out concerns we have about injustices around the world. We're here to talk about what
goes on at UH. Sadly, the bill wasn't passed last week largely because the group speaking
in favor of this relied mostly on emotions rather than the notion that coffee prices will not
increase if the switch is made."

Many students want to get involved with progressive issues, Tovar said, and SFT can
provide a link.

"We believe that educating the student body is synonymous with gaining support," he
said. "Total global fair-trade sales had a growth of 40 percent between 2004 and 2005 to
about $1.3 billion. The organic movement was once a small movement like fair trade,
however, organic sales are well over $18 billion. Ethical consumerism is gaining more
and more support as we all gain awareness of our global village. Information is traveling
(faster). We can communicate with everyone everywhere, and the connection between
producer and consumer is strengthening.

"This is the main focus of the fair-trade movement, I believe, the development of the
relationships that will bring a new level of equality to the world. We only want students
to share in this equality and not allow the University to provide them with the chance to
exploit people."

---With additional reporting by Jennifer Early

Send comments to dcnews@mail.uh.edu

				
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