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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Lack of options promote unhealthy life choices

Published: November 1, 2013
Section: Opinions

College students are usually stereotyped as having an unhealthy relationship with caffeinated beverages. This relationship is created due to the fact that students have a lot of work to do, stay up late and thus, need a lot of caffeine. All valid points, and there are plenty of places to get coffee around campus, if you choose to do so. But there is even more caffeine being thrown in our faces—in the form of sugary, bubbly soft drinks.

Sodas seem to make up a majority of the options in both Usdan and Sherman for students to add to their meals. This is a problem, because as you probably already know, soda is bad. It is bad for your teeth, bad for your body and bad for your mind. Now, it would not be so bad if these selections were kept in the corners, out of sight and out of mind. But the soda machines are right in your face whenever you start to look for something to drink. There are even two machines that have about 50 different sodas—just sodas—with up to 1,000 flavor varieties. On top of that, there are no actual water fountains in some dorms, so you have to go to the bathroom to get unfiltered, room-temperature water. It is incredible how easy it is to get a soda at this school.

The administration has a degree of implicit control over student lifestyle decisions. I question whether it is wise to exert this control by bombarding students with a prevalence of sugary soft drinks at every turn. Launching a campaign to promote better drinking options would be a start to a wiser path. They could try to do the responsible thing for our futures and try to instill a healthy lifestyle into the student body. A student body, if it does not drink too much soda and has a healthy lifestyle, can live longer and donate more. Yet, universities idly sit by and let students rot their teeth and get fat, even inviting Coca-Cola to advertize their soft drinks on our campus.

There are easy ways to get this to change. Sodexo has been vocal about running a transparent food service that tries its best to listen to the students. If enough folks really want to see more choices—perhaps flavored, filtered waters and unsweetened iced teas—their demands should be met. There are some students interested in getting water fountains in places where there are currently none. All of that depends on how apathetic or not the student body chooses to be on this issue, if anyone even chooses to make this an issue.

Certainly we could use more options and healthier choices. Even a large water cooler would do the trick. The soda fountains are always in the most visible spots, and have the largest displays. In order to get more people to drink less soda, not only does the volume of the product need to change, but so does the marketing.

Getting the soda machines to be less visible throughout the dining halls could prove to be more of a challenge. It seems pretty obvious that Coca-Cola has a monopoly on Brandeis, with Coke products on the shelves and in the fountains. And no one is trying to hide this fact, as is evident with the abundance of paper cups with Coke labels. There was even some sort of Coke advertising campaign outside of Usdan a while back. Conjecture would lead one to think that Coke is trying very hard to get students addicted to their product through vast amounts of advertising, both subliminal and direct. If you are at school and only drink, say, Diet Coke, you are a thousand times more likely to continue drinking Diet Coke outside of campus.

However, even if there is a majority of soft drinks throughout this campus, the choice is still ultimately unto us to make the right decision. Water is readily available at the soda fountains, you just have to look for it. And no one else is to blame if we rot out our teeth after drinking 10 Dr. Pepper’s a day during September of our first year just because it is there. Brandeis students tend to pride themselves on being independent thinkers and should be able to see through the blatant promotion of soft drinks to choose a healthier option, regardless of whether it is easy to find.

It would be nice to not be completely bombarded with Coca-Cola cups and advertising. It would be nice to be shown by the wonderful folks at Sodexo all the different ways to nourish our bodies through water, juice, tea, coffee and soda in moderation. It would be nice if it were easier, and cheaper, to just grab a bottle of water instead of heading over to the soda fountain. Yet, things do not always work out that way, and we have no control over some things.

At least some of us are free-thinking individuals, who care about what we put in our bodies, but not everyone can see past the gross Coca-Cola propaganda smearing these hallowed walls.