Dressed in all blue attire, a sea of students from the RSO marched from Rose Pond to Warriner Hall on Friday to hand deliver letters of protest to Central Michigan University’s Director of Purchasing and Contracting Thomas Trionfi. The protest marked the end of the university’s Earth Week festivities, which Take Back the Tap called a Day of Action.
Vincent Roncelli, president of Take Back the Tap, said the protest is a culmination of the group’s four year crusade against bottled water.
“We have passed legislation through student government, have gained support through students, faculty, and staff and we are still not seeing the progress we would like to see,” he said. “We met with Trionfi, earlier this year and he told us if students really wanted to see a bottled water free campus they would be coming to him directly. So that’s exactly what we are going to do.”
In its few years as a RSO, the campaign has made efforts to educate students on the negative effects of bottled water, resulting in more than 3,000 petition signatures.
Roncelli said the group expected a large crowd, since students and faculty have been supporting the campaign for years. Close to 30 students participated in the march.
Concerned community members unable to attend the event were asked to send an email to Trionfi expressing their concerns, as well.
“Mount Pleasant tap water is safe to drink and water fountains are readily available all over campus,” Roncelli said. “There is no need for CMU to continue of selling bottled water, a basic human right, for a profit.”
Mariah Urueta, Student Government Association vice president, said the RSO has been in contact with Trionfi for the last four years. During this time, Urueta, Roncelli and Trionfi had come to an agreement of not renewing the Pepsi and Coke contracts for 2015 academic year.
However, in their latest meeting, Trionfi said more support was needed for the measure, leading the group to march and hand-deliver letters to emphasize the amount of support from student body.
“One of the reasons for bringing the bottle water issue to CMU is the county next to Isabella county, Mecosta county, had an ongoing approximately 10-year court case with Nestle (bottle water),” Urueta said. “They were being sued by the county because they were taking more water than allocated and essentially stealing water from farmers.
“Water is a basic human right. Without water, there is no life and it should not be bought and sold for profit.”
Take Back the Tap believed the protest would be a powerful statement. The group wants to make CMU a sustainable school, to which Urueta said bottle water has a negative impact on the overall health of the campus environment.
While delivering the letters, Trionfi remained in his office. He said the protest was completely unexpected.
“I do the contracts, ultimately it is not my decision,” he said. “The university, being students, faculty, and staff, have to demand for it, and not only vocally. We are one of the few campuses that have Pepsi and Coke – we provide a choice.
“We aren’t going to deficit to them what they can and cant have. The choice is yours. You can get Pepsi, you can get Coke, or neither. If people decide to not purchase them, then surely the contract will end on its own.”