Activist group fights for fairness

A student-activist group is mounting a campaign to pressure TCU to serve 100 percent fair-trade coffee across the university from department offices to dining services.Later this month, Frogs for Fair Trade plans to deliver a petition of more than 360 names to Chancellor Victor Boschini and will write letters asking him to make TCU a 100 percent fair-trade campus, said Sean Blackwell, a sophomore criminal justice major.

The fair-trade coffee program is an attempt to stop the cycle of poverty and debt for farmers who receive profits from the sale of their coffee beans that are less than the cost of production, according to Global Exchange, an international human rights organization.

Frogs for Fair Trade has already been successful in converting some groups to fair-trade coffee.

The Frog Theatre serves fair-trade coffee and the religion department and University Ministries do, as well, said Rory Phillips, president of Frogs for Fair Trade.

Frogs for Fair Trade will also talk to TCU Dining Services again and ask it to switch to fair-trade products, said Phillips. a junior religion major.

“We spoke to them about this before, but there was no response to the issue,” Phillips said. “We’ll just try again.”

However, Rick Flores, director of TCU Dining Services, said it did respond by replacing the Seattle’s Best Coffee served in Jazzman’s Cafe with Rainforest Alliance coffee.

“Fair-trade coffee focuses on the farmers, and we took a more holistic approach,” Flores said. “Rainforest Alliance coffee deals with the environment, as well as the farmers.”

Phillips said Rainforest Alliance coffee is not the same.

“Rainforest Alliance is great for the environment, but it doesn’t address the economic issues,” Phillips said.

Rainforest Alliance assures the workers make minimum wage but not living wage, Phillips said.

University Ministries switched to fair-trade coffee in March 2005 after Frogs for Fair Trade members approached it with “incredible awareness” of the issue, said Ann Smith, University Ministries intern for worship, spiritual life and pastoral care.

“It’s so important that as University Ministries, we don’t just talk the talk, but we walk the walk,” Smith said. “As ministers we’re called to uphold the religious principles of our founders to act justly and work mercifully.”

Phillips said a member of Frogs for Fair Trade is drafting a bill to present to SGA in support of serving fair-trade certified goods on campus.

“In order to reach our goal of 100 percent fair-trade coffee at TCU, we should confront the issue from all angles,” Phillips said. “It would be a huge deal if we could get SGA to react, since they represent the student body.”

Although fair-trade coffee is more expensive, other universities, such as Baylor University and SMU, have adopted the change and only seen an increase of 5 cents per cup of coffee, Phillips said.

Frogs for Fair Trade is also making presentations for classes and organizations through the first week of November about the fair-trade situation, why there is a need for fair-trade products and how students and groups can get involved, Phillips said.

Blackwell said students will still have the opportunity to sign the petition at the presentations.

Members of the He Is Sufficient sorority have already heard the presentation, which President Cici Walker said was beneficial because people hear what is going on in other countries and learn how they can help.

“I think that educating students and consumers in this community will move them forward,” said Walker, a senior speech pathology major. “Awareness is the biggest thing.”

Phillips said he wants students to know they can make a difference by changing their buying practices.

“It’s socially responsible consumerism,” Phillips said. “It’s realizing that there is a living, breathing person on the other side of the supply trade and they are just as human as we are.”

According to the Global Exchange Web site, fair-trade coffee costs about $1.26 per pound. The market value of other coffee lingers around 70 cents, Phillips said.

For information, contact University Ministries at extension 7830.