Multipurpose Building Features Controversial Coffee Company

By Kiley Petracek

If you’ve been on The University of Tampa (UT)’s campus during 2023, it’s been hard to miss the massive construction of the new ‘Multipurpose Building’ blocking University Dr. between Morsani Hall and the Macdonald-Kelce Library. The 10-story building is bound to include parking options, a residence hall housing 600+ incoming students, faculty offices, classrooms and a Starbucks cafe. 

According to the Office of the President in a university-wide email on Oct. 6, 2022, President Ronald L. Vaughn is, “pleased to announce that the building will also house a Starbucks café, much like the one located in the Daly Innovation and Collaboration Building.” 

While the Multipurpose Building will hopefully assist in growing parking and housing demands, the addition of a second Starbucks cafe on campus seems unnecessary. Starbucks has begun accepting Mobile Pick-Up Orders in the Daly Innovation and Collaboration Building during the fall 2023 semester. This has only increased the demand of caffeine for university students, with the location reportedly running out of seasonal flavors a few days after the release of seasonal drinks early this November. 

There have been an ample 3,000 students enrolled in the university in the past seven years. With a growing population of UT students, the demand for another coffee location is clear as nearby study spaces fill up quicker, but with five Starbucks locations already existing within a two mile radius of campus, why is Starbucks still the desired coffee brand?

Starbucks has been under political brand pressure throughout this calendar year. Rumors have begun that Starbucks financially supports Israel in light of the Israel/Palestine conflict beginning October 2023 due to a response by Sara Kelly, the executive vice president and chief partner officer for Starbucks. 

“We want to again express our deepest sympathy for those who have been killed, wounded, displaced and impacted following the heinous acts of terror, escalating violence and hate against the innocent in Israel and Gaza this week. Starbucks unequivocally condemns acts of hate, terrorism and violence,” said Kelly in a statement read on Oct. 11, only four days after the conflict arose.  

This contradicts vocalized political support on X (formerly known as Twitter) made by Starbucks Workers United, which is a worker-led unionizing effort advocating for better working conditions and wages for Starbucks employees. On Oct. 9, 2023, the union posted, “Solidarity with Palestine!” which was deleted nearly an hour later, according to AP News

However, since Starbucks is a publicly held company, they are required to disclose any corporate giving through a proxy statement. Starbucks cleared its accusations of financial support by stating, “rumors that Starbucks or Howard provides financial support to the Israeli government and/or the Israeli Army are unequivocally false,” in a statement prior to current conflict on Aug. 6, 2014. 

Rather, their involvement in the Middle East follows business and employment growth by confirming the predicted increase of 1,000 locations that will be across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) by 2028, according to John Hadden, the CEO of Alshaya. Alshaya Group is Starbucks’ MENA franchise partner, and has been since 1999. 

For the consideration that there is an ample amount of Starbucks nearby campus, as well as the international political involvement, UT needs to prioritize supporting the community instead of global chains. Other national franchise eateries on UT campus include Aussie Grill, Chick-Fil-A, Einstein Bros and Dairy Queen. 

By slowly involving local businesses, UT can build on its reputation and trust within the community. For example, down I-275, University of South Florida (USF)’s Tampa campus features their own coffee brand, Bay Coffee & Tea Company as well as Buddy Brew, a Tampa-native coffee shop. 

Buddy Brew’s motto is “Brew Good, Do Good,” which is supported by their organic coffee blend and emphasizes local support to women-owned co-ops and smallholder farmers. Further, the regional brand hosts events where they have brought Buddy the dog by and features a seasonal USF Blend, according to the Judy Genshaft Honors College.Dave and Susan Ward have said on their website, “we want to change the world, one cup of coffee at a time, and that starts with honoring coffee farmers.” This draws parallels to Starbucks’ values, and instead has the potential to represent UT’s involvement in a positive and community-centered light.

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