On November 5th, UVic Student Affairs quietly posted an announcement sharing the news that Starbucks was coming to campus in the fall of 2019, replacing one of UVic’s current coffee shops, Finnerty Express.
When the news became more widespread over Facebook during the weekend of November 9th, many students expressed excitement about the arrival of the coffee chain, as did a number of community members. However, while some students seemed thrilled about having a Starbucks on campus, others were decidedly less so.
Following the announcement, student activists quickly began sharing concerns regarding the lack of local food or coffee provided by Starbucks (Finnerty Express sells Salt Spring Island coffee, and baked goods from QV’s cafe), the lack of student consultation, and wider concerns regarding relegating control of UVic food services to a large corporation.
A Facebook page, ‘Stop Starbucks UVic,’ was created soon after the announcement, and reached over 200 likes within 24 hours. As of the time of publication, over 450 people follow the page.
When asked about some of the motivations behind creating and running the ‘Stop Starbucks UVic’ movement, an anonymous organizer commented that “…it’s not just about not wanting a corporation like Starbucks here on campus, but also about wanting to support local businesses. We have so many amazing cafes, bakeries, and food producers here in town, and it’s a shame to see the university prioritizing a global franchise over community businesses.”
Of the concerns raised by various students, one of the primary ones was a lack of transparent consultation with the student body. Though a student survey was repeatedly mentioned as part of the reasoning as to why Starbucks was brought on, various student stakeholders, both online and in person, noted that they knew nothing of any survey, and felt that their voices had not been taken into consideration.
For their part, the UVic administration has not released any comment on the number of students they polled, nor what percentage of students expressed a desire to see Finnerty Express replaced by Starbucks Coffee.
However, Director of Campus Services, Jim Forbes, who has played a key role in the change, has noted that the campus is looking for ways to potentially keep Salt Spring Coffee on campus, as noted in an email to ‘Stop Starbucks UVic.’
Notably, UVic has made a push in recent years towards local food practices, with the office of Campus Planning and Sustainability listing “increase[ing] the number of local food producers and suppliers to maintain an active preference for island produced products,” as a main goal on their website.
‘Stop Starbucks UVic’ has made a number of public calls to action, including a boycott of all UVic Food Services locations, except for Finnerty Express, and engaging in a letter writing campaign directed towards various members of the university administration.
There have also been numerous calls made to support local businesses, as well as the food services in the Student Union Building, which carry local food and give revenue back to student organizations.
Currently, UVic has two franchises on campus – Booster Juice and Bento Sushi – with all other campus eateries being overseen by UVic Food Services. The Student Union Building businesses, which include Felicita’s Campus Pub and Bean There Cafe, are run under the oversight of the University of Victoria Students’ Society, and operate independently from the University of Victoria.