By Andrew Butler
PepsiCo and HSU have spent the last five years in a contractual partnership. PepsiCo pays HSU athletics $35,000 a year in scholarships, HSU gives PepsiCo 80 percent of available shelving space for its drinks, and the students are left to choose between diet or original.
The current five year pouring rights contract ends June 30, and many around HSU’s campus would like to see HSU break away from its corporate ties with PepsiCo. The Associated Students council has taken up the fight, urging HSU administration to explore alternate partnerships with more reputable companies – preferably local ones.
AS representative Tessa Lance has been working to rally her fellow students in support of breaking away from PepsiCo. “At first there was little interest, but since the start of this semester, students have been increasingly involved,” Lance said. “ PepsiCo has a long history of committing environmental injustice. The values HSU claims to represent, the values that students come here to uphold, have nothing in common with PepsiCo,” Lance said. Lance along with the help of other students brought their concerns to Joyce Lopes, Vice President of Administration and Finance. Lopes in turn set up a “Pepsi Task Force” to meet regularly and discuss the impact PepsiCo has on HSU.
The Task Force included representatives from Dining, Athletics, upper Administration, and a few students, including Lance. These meetings found that administration and students have a lot of common ground, and both are in favor of a more sustainable contractual obligations.
On Monday, April 17, the AS council held a town hall in the Nelson Forum for students and community members to voice their concerns over the PepsiCo contract. Dozens of students showed up to have their voices heard by members of the Pepsi Task Force, including Lopes and Athletic Director Tom Trepiak. Meredith Garrett, a HSU student, was the first to speak. She first recited the HSU graduation pledge found posted in large font on the wall above her. Garrett said that the reasons students came to HSU were being abandoned within the PepsiCo contract. One of the main concerns echoed again and again by students was that PepsiCo and the Athletics were in a mutually beneficial partnership that left the majority of students out. PepsiCo funds roughly eight athletic scholarships a year under the current contract. Additionally, PepsiCo gives money to athletics for one time expenditures such as new scoreboards, totalling roughly $20k a year. There are about 400 athletes at HSU, and around 200 athletes receive partial or full scholarships a year. Although PepsiCo only covers a small percentage of scholarships, losing PepsiCo’s money would only add to the deficit problem within the Athletic Department and subsequently HSU as a whole.
Senior communications major and Lumberjack football player Jared Layel attended the meeting and expressed a sentiment in stark contrast from the general tone of the meeting. “AS never asked athletes if they wanted to see PepsiCo go,” Layel said. “Breaking ties with PepsiCo would only force HSU to again raise tuition, and it would worsen the deficit.”
HSU cannot begin the process of exploring a new contractual agreement with a different vendor until the last 30 days of the current contract; that period begins June 1. Until that time, Tessa Lance, the AS council, and the Pepsi Task Force will continue exploring ways in which HSU might find a sustainable alternative to PepsiCo. As of now, there is no concrete plan to replace PepsiCo and the money it brings HSU.