February 3rd, 2006
By Mekhala Sofsky
Daily Athenaeum Staff Writer
The West Virginia University Downtown Library Complex will soon be a place that students will be able to kick back and enjoy a cup of coffee while braving those familiar all-night study sessions.
Expected to be completed near the end of February, Eliza's, named after WVU's first professionally trained librarian, will be up and running, giving the fourth floor of the library a whole new edge.
But some students aren't just looking for any old coffee beans. With Starbucks already on board as the supplier for the new library fix, WVU activists have been working alongside the popular coffee chain to ensure that all the coffee that passes through the fourth floor will be fair-trade.
"With the introduction of fair-traded coffee at Starbucks, it will create a precedent leading to other products on campus being of a fair trade," said student Gibran Mancus. "This higher standard of equitable commerce spreads democracy and shows WVU as a leader of academic institutions in the effort of improving our global community."
According to the Organic Consumers Web site, the $3 the average person spends on a gourmet cup of coffee is the rough equivalent of the daily wages for a coffee picker in Central America.
Fair-trade coffee offers an opportunity to help farmers of the world earn more sufficient wages equal to the work put into their product.
The money from fair-trade coffee goes directly to the farmer rather than passing through a middle man, where wages would normally be cut, leaving the farmer with the bare minimum to survive.
"As leaders of democracy we must be conscious of what conditions exist in order for us to have the products we use," Mancus said. "This is what fair trade is all about. People being willing to pay a fair price in order to improve the lives of the people on the other side of the coin."
With the introduction of fair-trade coffee, the annual income of farmers in developing nations has nearly doubled, leaving more than 500,000 people in 20 developing nations living above the poverty line, according to the Starbucks fair-trade campaign.
Amnesty International and the Peoples Progressive Community have already contacted the representatives of Starbucks and are currently in the process of demanding only the best for WVU.