Petition targets Starbucks planned for University of Victoria

An online petition has been organized to protest a move by the University of Victoria to bring Starbucks onto campus.

Organized by a group calling itself Stop Starbucks UVic, the petition had collected more than 1,900 signatures as of Saturday afternoon, according to its website.

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Other supporting UVic groups include Community Cabbage and UVic Meal Exchange, two organizations that combine activism and food.

The new Starbucks operation will move into the space below the UVic bookstore now occupied by Finnerty Express, which serves Salt Spring Coffee. The change is planned for fall 2019.

Hannah Estabrook, a member of the collective effort that started the petition, said inviting a corporate brand onto campus is a violation of UVic’s commitment to sustainability, the local community and local businesses.

Estabrook agreed as a corporation Starbucks performs ethically better than many others.

But, she said, by turning to a branded corporation — even one like Starbucks — the university is relinquishing a little of its independence when it comes to pursuing efforts like food sustainability and waste reduction.

“We are afraid that by relinquishing control to an external corporation like Starbucks, we will gradually lose our ability as students to have a say in what food choices are offered,” said Estabrook, a second-year student in environmental studies.

UVic has defended the decision to bring Starbucks coffee to campus, saying the university is relinquishing nothing in terms of ethics or sustainability.

“The operation will be accountable to all of the university’s sustainability principles and practices,” wrote Jim Forbes, director of campus services, in an emailed statement.

The new operation will be under licence, selling Starbucks products under its brand, but the store will be university owned and staffed by UVic employees.

Forbes said students and visitors “have regularly requested a nationally branded coffee,” and that other universities with Starbucks on campus, including the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and Vancouver Island University, have all received positive feedback.

UVic will continue to offer Salt Spring Coffee and baked goods and other foods from local makers elsewhere on campus, he said.

“The majority of on-campus retail food and beverage outlets will remain and beverage outlets will remain independently created brands and represent more than 85 per cent of revenue.”

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