The Student Association unanimously passed a resolution calling for the university to make a complete switch and offer only Fair Trade coffee products at its Tuesday meeting. After a year and a half of campaigning, Georgetown Students for Fair Trade finally achieved the passage of the resolution, co-sponsored by sophomore representative Luis Torres (COL ’05) and freshman representative Octavio Gonzalez (COL ’06).

The resolution expresses GUSA’s support of the exclusive sale of Fair Trade coffee throughout campus and calls for a committee to work with university administrators towards the implementation of that goal. It will allow GUSA to express student support of social justice and to hold the university to the same standard, GSFT President Stephanie Green (SFS ’05) said. “This is what we’ve been working for . allies working together to make this campus socially just,” GSFT President Stephanie Green (SFS ’05) said.

For a time, it appeared that the greatest roadblock to passage of the resolution would not be opposition from the GUSA assembly members, but rather their mere absence. In the end, however, the resolution passed by a 9-0 vote, with nine being the minimum number of assembly members needed to establish a quorum for the purposes of voting.

Green detailed the immense student support for the issue and outlined how an exclusively Fair Trade coffee campus might benefit all parties. An energized and interested student population, she said, could increase coffee sales to the point of making the switch economically profitable as well as socially just. Green also alleviated the concerns that many might have had about losing their ability to choose a certain type of coffee. When the university makes the complete switch, she said, it will allow Marriott, the dining halls and the Corp to offer the many blends of Fair Trade coffee that are available, meaning students will still have a wide range of options.

Scott Cody of TransFair, the organization that provides Fair Trade certification to products, was on hand to cement the support of the GUSA Assembly by answering many of the assembly members’ technical questions. Afterwards, the GSFT membership, which admitted to being nervous about the vote, but confident about its presentation, was awarded with a unanimous decision.

Currently, the only campus locations that do not offer Fair Trade coffee products are the Darnall dining hall and More Uncommon Grounds in the Intercultural Center. GSFT claims that sales of Fair Trade coffee at Uncommon Grounds are promising, but are hurt by the unfamiliarity of both customers and UG staffers regarding the recently-available product. The coffee costs 10 cents extra, but, according to Green, students have told her that they “don’t mind paying 10 cents if [they] know that it’s certified.”

GSFT, as a result, does not expect the slightly increased cost to be a problem. Once it becomes standard, Fair Trade coffee will likely sit at the same price-per-cup that it does now, 10 cents extra, and the cost of dining hall meal plans might have to be increased by a small amount per semester. There is, however, a potentially more appetizing option to students – the option of the university covering the cost increase. Brandeis University, for instance, absorbed the full cost of the switch without increasing student charges at all.

The exact timetable of a full switch remains unclear, though GSFT optimistically hopes to see it completed by the end of the year. Complicating the matter is the issue of pre-existing contracts held by both the university and the Corp. There may be multi-year contracts in place with the current provider, Maxwell House, the breaking of which would be difficult, GUSA Senior Representative Matt Hopkins (COL ’03) said. Once that issue is resolved, Hopkins said, the Corp looks favorably on Fair Trade coffee. Unless Maxwell House (a subsidiary of Kraft, which is in turn owned by the former Philip Morris) can develop its own Fair Trade coffee, the university will be switching to a new supplier.

GSFT Secretary Emily Conger (COL ’05) also spoke to the room full of GSFT activists and described how the Fair Trade campaign corresponds with Georgetown’s larger commitment to the Jesuit principles. She called on GUSA “to realize the ideal of social justice” embodied in the university’s ission Statement. Conger then passed the presentation on to two faculty members, sociology and anthropology Professor Fr. Joe Palacios, S.J., and international business Professor Dr. John Kline, both of whom reinforced the great social responsibility bestowed on an institution such as Georgetown.

Those nine assembly members may have been inclined to support the resolution from the outset, as GSFT’s Green noted the near-universal support that the Fair Trade coffee initiative received from the student body since its inception.

Georgetown Students for Fair Trade showed that it has more than one issue to bring to the table with a Valentine’s Day candy sale featuring Fair Trade chocolate this week. With Fair Trade cocoa not yet a completely viable option, however, GSFT’s initiatives for the rest of the semester will be to continue educating the student population about the issue and working with the administration toward the goal of a smooth transition to the implementation of the resolution.

“For now, we just want to celebrate this huge victory,” Green said.

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