Redirecting the Coke front

By Joseph Schultz

Well what should I write about this week? The impending Coke ban? How about another tract on intellectual diversity? Well, I honestly can’t decide. So how about a little shout-out for both?

The impending Coke ban. What a long way this issue has come in such a short period of time. The SRC has responded to accusations that it acted inappropriately by basically saying it didn’t. And now Michigan wants to reinstitute Coke after Coke agreed to an investigation led by the United Nations into its activities in human rights contested areas.

Maybe the best way to start is to point out that Coke has not been found guilty of any wrongdoing, at least not yet. I will also point out that in this country you are innocent until proven guilty. As such, imposing a penalty on Coke in the form of a ban amounts to a distinctly unjust form of retribution.

What people who want to ban Coke should be doing is going around convincing people that Coke is a human rights abusing company and hence should not have its products purchased. This is hard. People tend to follow the path of least resistance. Hence what we have is a very small group of students who have convinced a very small group of faculty (read: SRC) that banning Coke is a good idea. I’ll also mention that such a ban would never have worked with last year’s SRC due to different SRC membership.

Somehow I’m unimpressed by all these shady goings on. Banning Coke will convince very few people (if any) to change their minds about Coke. People will still buy Coke from off-campus sources. If the pro-ban people really wanted to exert pressure on Coke, they would be doing the hard work of (pardon this phrase from our good President Bush) “winning hearts and minds.” I am left to conclude that the pro-ban people are too lazy (I doubt this one) or are basing their claims on too flimsy of evidence (much more likely). You’ll have to excuse me, but I think I will continue to enjoy my Coke products.

So President Rosenberg wants to stand up for students’ good intentions. He stated quite clearly that Katherine Kersten’s article mocking the Coke ban people was unfair to Macalester students, who only do what they do with the best of intentions (even if they may sometimes be wrong). Fine. It’s probably true too. But what about the matter at hand? Do we limit other students’ rights because a small group of students feel that the exercising of the right is morally offensive? God, I hope not. What say you, Mr. President?

What about intellectual diversity? I have to admit, I smiled a little when I read the results of the survey published in last week’s Weekly. If fact be told, too many of us in the Macalester community are intolerant of intellectual opinions too different from our own. There is a sort of Left group-think that pervades much of the discussion on campus.

How does one go about changing this scenario? As students, there’s not a whole lot that can be done. Aside from making a conscious effort to not ostracize more Right-thinking students, there’s not much that can be done. In terms of faculty and administration policies, there is actually a fair amount that needs to change. Affirmative action policies for hiring, firing, and promoting faculty members need to end. As much as I hate to generalize, affirmative action policies do beget more liberal-minded people. We could also use more funding for projects on more conservative-oriented projects. A center for the study of human rights would go a long way toward attracting more conservative-minded students. Having majors in more applied fields would also greatly change the makeup of the Macalester student body (e.g. engineering, nursing— especially business, law, education, etc.)

Contact Joseph Schultz ’06 at [email protected]