Starbucks opens in Students’ Union

Debate over the introduction of Starbucks to the Students' Union started in October 2011.

Debate over the introduction of Starbucks to the Students’ Union started in October 2011.

Following over a year of discussion and debate, the Cwtch bar at Aberystwyth Students’ Union is now serving Starbucks branded beverages.

It was first proposed that Starbucks products replace the Wicked Coffee drinks served behind the bar at a Guild of Students General Meeting in November 2011. As reported by Aberystwyth Student Media at the time, the Starbucks motion was one of the most contested motions put forward; the motion to block Starbucks from entering the Union fell by five votes.

Despite the motion having fallen, the issue was again raised to Union President, Ben Meakin, at the following General Meeting in December 2011. Meakin was prepared to accept further consultation on the matter, but Starbucks did not become a focal point of debate as it had been in the previous General Meeting.

Over the course of 2012, the Union reviewed other coffee chain possibilities. However, it was ultimately decided that Starbucks, as an internationally recognised brand, provided the best opportunity to create revenue and bring money into the Union.

As it became evident that Starbucks was to become the chosen coffee provider of the Union, the issue was once again raised by those opposed at the Students’ Union Assembly in December 2012. The opinion was put forward that Starbucks in the Union was “unethical and unwanted”. The recent revelations of tax avoidance by the company were cited as one reason as to why the Union should not support them.

John Glasby, Interim CEO of the Students’ Union spoke up on the topic, stating that, as part of his role, he was “obliged to increase revenue” and that consultation with other universities across the UK had shown that having a Starbucks had “increased revenue by 400%”. Union President Meakin added that, as the Union is affiliated to the NUS, it is only able to source coffee from three companies, one of which is Starbucks. Recognition of the brand by the NUS meets with the Union’s ethical standards, despite the “national mood” around Starbucks at the time.

The vote was put to the Assembly, the majority of whom opted to defer the motion,  meaning that a public meeting and referendum would be held on the issue at a later date. It was then stated by Meakin that time and financial constraints rendered this course of action impossible, resulting in the vote being taken again. As the motion was to prohibit Starbucks from opening, 4 assembly members voted in favour of the motion and 17 voted against, meaning the motion to prohibit it did not pass. 10 members abstained from the vote.

Cwtch unveiled the new Starbucks branded products and equipment today, serving Starbucks coffees, frappuccinos and teas at prices discounted from those in high street branches. Bar staff  told Aberystwyth Student Media that they had seen an increase in the number of coffees they were serving, going from “a few in the morning” to “twenty or thirty, plus a lunchtime rush”. Efforts to promote the new acquisition will be seen across the Union in the weeks to come.

Wicked Coffee, another of the NUS certified brands, is still available for purchase in the Students’ Union shop.