Opinions
The Gauntlet

Of beer, and pop, and choice

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In a recent edition of the Calgary Herald, Sara MacIntyre, a graduate student in Political Science, complained bitterly that upon arriving from Western Ontario she discovered that she could not enjoy a Big Rock beer at the Den on campus. No Traditional, no Grasshöpper, no Warthog. Why? Because the Students' Union executive banned Big Rock products. In a secret deal, the su handed a monopoly to Molson, an "eastern behemoth," to use Ms. MacIntyre's words.

Her article raises some fundamental issues. The first are those of equality and of freedom of choice. For the Students' Union, that equality was defined as being Orwellian. We are all equal, but some (the su executive) are more equal than others (the 30,000 students, staff and faculty of this university). At the very least, it would have been nice to hear what Faustian deal was struck. Did the su get $5,000, or $50,000, or $500,000 for selling out to Molson? And for how many years did they sell our freedom of choice? Five, ten, fifteen? And for what has the money been spent? To lower tuition fees? To subsidize the student newspaper, the Gauntlet? Or to pay for the su expansion?

The beer battle is neither the first nor the only one conducted on campus. To the best of my knowledge, there has never been full disclosure of what the offers were from Pepsi and from Coca-Cola for a similar monopoly. Nor of what that monopoly payment has enhanced. The Library? Athletics? Parking lots? In short, there needs to be more open consultation before we arrive at a state where all of us at the University of Calgary must arrive in Ford cars, start Dell computers, use Hammermill paper, send packages out by dhl, relax over a Starbucks coffee, and of course, satisfy our hunger underneath golden arches.

What makes the beer battle so repugnant--the third issue that needs to be aired--is that the Students' Union has turned its back on a local booster of, and a serious stakeholder in, the university. Beginning October 16, Big Rock University will once again open its doors to lectures by University of Calgary faculty; its exquisite chef, Klaus Wöckinger, will stay late to serve up a delightful meal; and its curmudgeon ceo, Ed McNally, will open the taps to welcome students and professors, farmers and ranchers, business people and retirees, alike. All of the proceeds from those lecture evenings go to University of Calgary student scholarships. To date, that has amounted to roughly $100,000 in cash payments to the university. When Mr. McNally informed the SU of this fact, he was curtly informed that this was of no interest.

What is to be done? Let us return choice and equality of opportunity to the campus. Let us allow tastes (the market place) rather than a select elite to make decisions that affect 30,000 people. Restore to us the freedom to choose. After all, that is one thing that sets democracies aside from less savoury alternatives.

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Comments

Wouldn't freedom of choice imply that if people don't like the beer a bar serves, they will go to one that serves different beer? If enough people do that, the bar will change it's selection. Free market doesn't mean you have to sell everything, it means you'll sell what makes you successful.

Toby,

You're forgetting something. This is a campus bar that, in some cases, exists in a world exempt from the forces of the market--that is, people go to the Den (especially rez kids) because it's the bar on campus, as do other students. With the introduction of the non-student cover, the SU is really saying (or at least pretending) that "it's the students' bar" (said Robbie White on the Gauntlet radio show, Baring It All) and that because of that, they are no longer just customers, but shareholders who are owed something.

Because of this, the SU has a greater responsibility than to sell away the selection of beer, pop or anything else on campus, or, at the very least, without their approval--none of the candidates have ever run on a Pepsi or Molson platform from what I can tell, and no major polls or plebicites were ever held. In fact, the SU slipped this by a largely unexpecting electorate (I would guess, and I would probably be right, that most students did not know about the deal prior to reading this article).

SU execs are more than CEOs of a random company. They're elected representatives and I sincerely hope they begin to realize that soon.

-James

Re: -James

(Polling share-holders on every business decision is poor corporate governance.)

not to mention, Wild Rose is better (in my opinion) than Big Rock. So it's not as though everyone disagrees or is angered by what happened. I'm quite happy with the change.

While I agree that polling shareholders for EVERY decision is irresponsible, this was not any ordinary decision. It wasn't the SU's position on the A+ grading system, their feelings about a handscanner for their employees, whether or not Gavin should be impeached or other largely internal or insignificant squables. Sufice it to say, as SAD as it really is, students don't care about those issues and most would admit they don't understand them enough to form an opinion anyway (again, because they don't care).

What they do care about is the Den, the copy centre and other SU services they use on a daily basis. This was an issue, more so than say Pipe Smoking, that would require some input from the students the SU is supposed to represent. Pepsi, and the secrecy and abritrary nature thereof, was a contentious enough issue for them. Obviously they haven't learned.

James

Won't waste my time or money where market isolation seems to be an institutional goal!

I agree with you James that the Den has to be looked at in a different light. I see it more as a student bar than a "campus bar." What bothers me is that you have a grad student writing in the Calgary Herald and a professor writing in the Gauntlet about how students are being oppressed. Go drink in the Grad Lounge or the University Club I say. It also bothers me that you have articles talking about "freedom and democracy" when both these articles were written by friends of Ed Mcnally to help further his cause. I would have much rather seen an article written by a student (like you) writing from the actual standpoint of students, rather than Big Rock supporters.

There also seems to be the idea that this was a "decision" made by the current executive. It is in fact a long-standing policy. That doesn't make it right, but it's not like Stambaugh and his executive made some sort of covert decision about it.

I was never 100% comfortable with the whole Molson thing, but I also think it's a really easy thing for students to change. Just comlain to the bartender everytime you order draft that they don't have "your beer" (I'd have no problem with Wild Rose, but I know we have lots of Big Rock boosters) and also let SLC members know. SLC members are suckers for stuff like that. If there were an actual student outcry for Big Rock, I'm sure the SU would put it on tap. Students do need to realize they would lose a lot of benefits by bootiung Molson as well, though (lots of groups recieve swag and stuff from Molson).