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Coffee Wars

By Daily Bruin Staff

Feb. 8, 2001 9:00 p.m.

UCLA FIRSTS Every other Friday, The Bruin will
highlight social, political and scientific advancements that
originated at UCLA and set standards for both the university and
the nation.   CATHERINE JUN Chetan Deshmukh
(left) and Marianne Van Roon (right) serve
customers coffee in Kerckhoff Coffee House on Thursday.

By Marjorie Hernandez
Daily Bruin Reporter

Each morning, hundreds of students pack Northern Lights and
Kerckhoff Coffee House to start their day with a fresh brew.

But what would students do if the price of coffee were to
double? That’s an issue that many students faced during the
1971 coffee controversy.

During that year, a battle over the price of campus food ensued
when Associated Students of UCLA Executive Director Donald Findley
approved a measure to raise prices on various food items to cover
profit loss.

“The issue triggered some debate about the role of
ASUCLA,” said Ann Haskins, former Daily Bruin
editor-in-chief, who graduated in 1971 and is now a California
administrative judge.

“Was it a business that’s out to make profits, or is
it something that’s there to serve the students, or
both?” she continued. “And if so, how do you balance
those two missions if the people you serve are also largely your
profit center.”

According to a 1971 statement released by the Board of Control,
ASUCLA faced an estimated loss of $48,000 in sales due to added
cost, salary increases and other expenses.

On the top of the food list price increase included coffee, tea
and milk, raising cost from 10 to 15 cents.

Though the rise in prices may seem small compared to
today’s coffee prices, students were displeased with the hike
in price of popular student beverages.

“Coffee was such a staple that using that to increase
ASUCLA profit was sort of like taxing the poorest,” said

In what may have been an untraditional journalistic response,
staff members of the Daily Bruin decided to fight the price war and
urged students to sign petitions and boycott campus brew.

The Bruin also began to offer free cups of coffee in its office
as an alternative to buying ASUCLA beverages.

“There were other ways they could have raised the
money,” Haskins said. “This was just the easiest
because where else was everyone going to go to buy coffee, and that
was kind of offensive.”

Food options for students, faculty and staff were often limited
to purchasing food from the vending machines and school cafeterias,
according to Haskins. Shuttle services were not provided at that
point and some students didn’t have time to walk or drive
back to their residence halls or Westwood to grab a drink and a
bite to eat.

But tension between The Bruin and ASUCLA flared when several
editorials appeared in the paper, voicing the editorial
board’s disapproval of the beverage price increase.

According to Daily Bruin archives, Findley thought the staff
published premature information about the food increase without
running a news story about the issue.

“We prefer not to offer quick reactions to a Bruin
“˜crusade’ which has been mounted with no effort to
report the facts to the campus community in a new story,”
Findley said in an article appearing in the April 20, 1971 Bruin

“We believe that the campus community has a right to know
the facts of the food price raise situation so that it can make up
its own mind as to whether this was necessary,” he continued.
“ASUCLA will be happy to explain these facts to the community
in a full statement in the near future.”

A statement from the BOC was issued and appeared in The Bruin on
April 23 which outlined the food services dilemma.

The release also stated the board’s effort to consider
other ways to raise revenue without increasing food prices and said
they “underestimated potential campus reaction.”

Though the issue continued to be debated in ASUCLA, the new
prices did not decrease.

During the course of the two-month Bruin “coffee
crusade,” about 18,000 cups of coffee were served to
students, according to a June 22, 1971 Daily Bruin editorial.

Despite the controversy, however, Haskins thought the coffee
crusade brought the ASUCLA power structure into the limelight.

Recently, students voiced their concern over coffee once again.
In an effort to give coffee farmers more profit by avoiding middle
men, some UCLA students asked ASUCLA to sell free-trade coffee at
campus cafes.

In January this year, ASUCLA approved a student proposal to
offer free-trade coffee in addition to the regular coffee brands
sold at UCLA coffee houses for an average increase of six cents per

Unlike the 1971 controversy, which addressed students’
rights, the recent fair-trade coffee concerns address rights of
coffee-growers around the world.

Back in the 1970s, however, individual civil rights in America
seemed to affect the student populace more than anything else.

The June 22, 1971 Bruin editorial, for instance, said the main
issue concerning the coffee crisis stemmed from apparent lack of
student control in a student organization. Although ASUCLA is a
student-run organization, it seemed to some Bruin writers that
Findley had control of the situation.

“There seemed to be an absence of any consideration of the
students or the campus community and strictly a look at the bottom
line,” Haskins said. “We felt that ASUCLA was not
simply in the business of making money and that the word
“˜student’ is the second word there.”

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