So, let me tell you about a recent adventure of mine. Last week, you may have seen Coca Cola vending machines replacing old Pepsi vending machines across the campus. This led me to ask the question: VIU wants to be a healthy campus, and VIUSU managed to ban bottled water last year, how does signing a new contract with Coca Cola adhere to VIU’s goals? The answer has kind of blown me away.

As part of the University’s master plan, there will be a Health and Wellness Centre where VIUSU is currently located. What does this mean for students? Hopefully it would mean better, easier access to health and wellness services. Exactly what those services will be is hard to say at this point, as the current Health and Wellness Desk, located in bldg. 200, is rarely attended by a staff member. When I went up there on Thursday, Mar. 14—a day where, according to VIU’s website, there should have been someone at the desk from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.—there was no-one there.

This proved annoying; especially after spending an hour or two talking to VIUSU and others on campus about where this Health and Wellness Centre is located. I was originally sent to the fourth floor of bldg. 180, but they sent me to bldg. 200. And then I also heard that it might be in the gym. So I went to the gym after bldg. 180 and found that while there was a desk there for health and wellness, there was no-one available at the time. Another possible option was the Health and Safety Office, which is located in the bottom of bldg. 360, and quite difficult to find if you’re not sure what you’re looking for.

What does all of this mean? Well, it seems to mean that VIU may not be as concerned with health and wellness as I had previously been led to think. So a deal with Coca Cola should come as no surprise. But if this is the case, why is there a new Health and Wellness Centre planned when no-one seems to know their current location or what it is they actually do?

Well, what should a Health and Wellness Centre do? I think it should deal with health and wellness in any form, whether that be counselling services, sex-related services, healthy food choice services, or anything else that may relate to health or wellness. When I was at the gym, I noticed posters advising students on how to improve their health—through cutting out sugars, drinking more water, eating healthier, etc. Great! Those all sound like things that a health and wellness centre should deal with. Not only that, but those posters adhere to my own thoughts: sugary beverages are not healthy.

So, why the deal with Coca Cola? Does it just come down to money? God, I would hope not, but I would probably be wrong. VIU is a business when it comes right down to it—this isn’t the correct time or platform to be discussing whether or not post-secondary institutes should be businesses or not. The previous vending machine contract with Pepsi had expired, and Coca Cola offered the University more money, so it was an easy decision to make. But the decision has angered people on campus. While all the old vending machines were replaced, three new ones have also been added, and Coca Cola advertising and branding is now stamped across the University, most notably in the upper cafeteria.

Back in Sept. of 2011, I wrote an opinion piece about VIUSU’s successful campaign to ban bottled water on campus, stating my position that the wrong type of beverage was banned. I thought, and still feel, that VIUSU should have attempted to ban the less healthy of the bottled beverages, those being pop, juice, and other sugar-laden beverages such as Vitamin Water, which may as well be called watered down juice. Still, VIU was the first Canadian university to ban bottled water, and that is an accomplishment that musn’t be ignored. But, the University seems to have ignored it. There are more vending machines on campus now, and one or two coolers in the upper cafeteria carry nothing but Vitamin Water.

So, VIU, I pose a question to you: do you really care about the health and wellness of your students? Because, from the inaccessibility of the current health and wellness desk, and the confusion surrounding its location, it is clear that you do not. The recent contract with Coca Cola is another example of how the health and wellness of your students comes second place behind the money that your students can bring in. Who cares how unhealthy your students might be so long as their wallets are emptying into your gilded coffers? I do. And I hope I’m not the only one.