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Sunday, September 24, 2023


Student group calls for reconsideration of proposed coffee shop

A student organization is attempting to stop the construction of a Starbucks in the M.D. Anderson Library before it begins, UH Students for Fair Trade officer Ross Barnard said Monday.

Barnard said the group has made attempts to discuss the issue with UH President Renu Khator since January, but has been repeatedly turned down.

He said he hopes Khator will agree to meet with the group so that it can present its argument against building a Starbucks in the library.

"If we wait until it’s already happened, it’ll be a lot harder to change," Barnard said.

During a demonstration that began in the library and ended in Khator’s office, the group carried a giant cardboard sign shaped like a paper coffee cup.

During their ten to twenty minute stay in the library lobby, the group was asked to leave by Assistant Dean for Collection Services Diane Bruxvoort because it was in violation of the library as a neutral area of the University.

"We knew the group had permission to be outside and we have no problem with that, but the library is just like neutral territory, so we don’t allow people to have events or…give one point of view over another in the library," Bruxvoort said. "We try and stay neutral, even when it’s about us."

Bruxvoort also said that she was unaware of any decision made to build a coffee shop.

"That’s a business decision that’s really beyond me completely," she said. "How Aramark works with the University is between the University and Aramark."

After leaving the library, the group then delivered the sign to Khator’s office.

Executive Assistant to the President Theresa Singletary said that to her knowledge, she had not received a request on behalf of SFT to meet with Khator, but mistakes might have been made.

"If they have requested time and I have overlooked it, I will be the first one to offer my apology," Singletary said.

Singletary also said it is not standard procedure to allow students to meet directly with Khator without first being directed to another office that might be able to handle their concerns.

"When it comes to policy of procedure, something (members of SFT) have to follow, they cannot go straight to the top," Singletary said.

Barnard also said that Khator left a message on his cell phone after the demonstration.

"I was really surprised she called and that’s really cool," Barnard said.

Singletary said that Khator sent a letter to Barnard regarding the concerns that he and the organization share about the coffee shop. Khator said she will discuss the matter with her cabinet this week and will consult others on the matter.

"I have also asked our Provost, Dr. Don Foss, to meet with you to discuss your concerns…In the meantime, I ask that you respect the collegial approach we are taking to address this issue and refrain from any and all disruptive behavior," Khator’s letter to Barnard stated. "Any such behavior will be subject to discipline under University policies and procedures."

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