WATER FOUNTAIN POLITICS

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By Kiera Toffelmire

Coca-Cola is cashing in on a lack of drinking fountains at Ryerson.

“Water fountains at Ryerson are few and far between,” said Ryerson Students’ Union VP education Rebecca Rose.

“Often people are hesitant to drink from them because they have really low water pressure. Also the fountains are quite dirty at times.”

Recently, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), and the Polaris Institute, conducted a survey attempting to document how commercial presence on Canadian campuses affects services such as water fountains.

Ninety-four per cent of respondents said they are aware of exclusive beverage arrangements between their school and a corporation.

“Water fountains are competition for these huge corporations [like Coca-Cola]. I wouldn’t be surprised if fountains become extinct,” said Robyn MacKenzie, a second-year radio and television arts student.

Ian Hamilton, the Director of campus planning and facilities, said the campus has slightly more than 100 drinking fountains and 12 of these are in the Ted Rogers School of Management.

“At least business students won’t be tempted to spend their money,” said MacKenzie. “I’ve only seen one fountain in the RCC. If I’m really thirsty I usually end up wasting money on drinks from the vending machine, which is ultimately an environmental threat,” said MacKenzie, who admits to spending $10 a week on Ryerson campus vending machines.

“I think it’s all linked to how underfunded our universities are by the provincial government. Universities in Ontario have been forced to find additional streams of revenue,” said Rose.

Ryerson has a five-year exclusivity agreement with Coca-Cola, prohibiting any beverage not owned by Coca-Cola from being sold on campus.

“It seems clear that Canadian universities and colleges are bowing to pressure from Coke and PepsiCo to eliminate competition to their bottled water brands,” said the director of the Polaris Institute, Tony Clarke.

First-year arts and contemporary studies student, Michael Searle, said he feels bombarded by commercialism within the Ryerson community.

“Frosh week felt like one big advertisement. All these sponsorships advertising their products takes focus away from being welcomed to the school and instead drills a materialistic mentality into our heads,” said Searle.

“School-spirit is being branded by big corporations,” said Elizabeth Shaker, the director of CCPA.

“Governments are really pulling out of the business of funding public education. And because of that campuses are being bombarded by corporate sponsorships promoting their products.”

According to John Corallo, Director of Ancillary Services, there is an initiative to introduce more fountain water, though it is in its early stages.

“We need more government funding in order to keep the big corporations out. Because right now school is a breeding ground for consumerists,” said Searle, taking a sip of his Coca-Cola.

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