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Prominent Religious Leaders Call for NYU to Remove Coca-Cola Products & Board Member

New York University

Contact: Lewis Friedman at

New York University: Dump Coke, Dump Diller

Prominent Religious Leaders Call for NYU to Remove Coca-Cola Products & Board Member

March 17, 2014

Dear President Sexton and Members of the University Senate,

For some years now, members of the faith community have been aware of the terrible record of the Coca-Cola Company with respect to labor, human rights, and environmental issues. Coca-Cola, as you know, also plays a major role in the controversy surrounding childhood obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes epidemics.

We have recently learned that Barry Diller, a member of The Coca-Cola Company’s Board of Directors, is also a member of NYU’s Board of Trustees and a very large stockholder in Coca-Cola. As a board member and a stockholder, Mr. Diller himself, as well Coca-Cola, must be held accountable. NYU took the moral high road from 2005-2009 by removing all Coke products and banning the marketing of Coca-Cola beverages, but brought Coke back on campus based on false premises and in violation of the University Senate Resolution which led to its removal in the first place. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Diller purchased another $20 million of Coca-Cola stock and now owns some $160,000,000 worth.

Since Coca-Cola returned to NYU, there have been a number of books, reports, news articles, documentary films, lawsuits and websites documenting this company’s sordid past and present criminal and other unethical conduct. Charges of Coca-Cola’s complicity in violence against union leaders and members of their families in Colombia and the company’s actions to prevent any legitimate independent investigation lead to Coke’s ban in 2005. Since then the company has become embroiled in numerous other human rights lawsuits filed on behalf of current and fired Black and Latino workers for racial discrimination and for violence in Guatemala. The "New York Daily News" reported on lawsuits describing Coca-Cola plants in New York City and Westchester County as "cesspools of racial discrimination." NYU should once again remove all Coca-Cola products from campus indefinitely and publicly censure Mr. Diller or demand his resignation from NYU’s board.

A campaign is growing among students, the faith community, and human rights groups to hold Coca-Cola accountable. I am available to discuss this matter with anyone at NYU or beyond.


Rev. David W. Dyson
Pastor Emeritus, Lafayette Ave. Presbyterian Church

Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper
Senior Minister, Judson Memorial Church

Download the Original Letter in .PDF

The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, formerly at Coral Gables Congregational Church in Miami and before that at Yale University, is Senior Minister for the landmark Judson Memorial Church surrounded by New York University in Greenwich Village. She began this post in 2005 and will be ordained 40 years in 2014. As an elder, she is passionately concerned about leaving the next generation well prepared for all they have to face.

Schaper’s purpose in life is to provide spiritual nurture for public capacity. She likes to "kick hope into high gear" and show people what is possible through the magnificence of human community strategically focused and spiritually filled. Her plan at Judson is to be a steward of an extraordinary legacy and to carry the church into the 21st century in terms of organization, vision, resources and courage. Writing about Rev. Schaper, The Huffington Post reported that, "A current project at Judson Memorial Church is the New Sanctuary Movement, a place where immigrants about to be detained or deported can be sheltered. She also works on ‘Bailout’, giving human beings a hand in a hard time. Bailout Theater meets every Wednesday at Judson with a free meal and great entertainment."

Schaper is no stranger to controversy, having led her Miami congregation through an institutional transformation that opened it to gays, Jews, anti-war protests and significant membership growth. Her 31 published books tell the tale of her interfaith marriage, her pioneer as an ordained woman, her quiet spirituality and noisy activism. One of the first women trained by Saul Alinsky, the founder of community organization strategies, Schaper has focused on issues of political and economic development and interfaith and open rituals, which support action for social change.

Rev. David Dyson, upon his retirement as pastor of Lafayette Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, New York in 2011, was described by The Brooklyn Paper as a "spunky Fort Greene pastor and labor organizer who transformed his church into a center for social justice." The article, "Rev. ‘Call me Dave’ Dyson retires at Lafayette Ave Presbyterian," says Dave made headlines in the church press by "openly flouting the Presbyterian’s rule against hiring gays as church officers, an act that is considered "ecclesiastical civil disobedience."

Pastor Dave "pushed his members to fight for gay rights and worker’s issues and rallied against the use of eminent domain to pave the way for Atlantic Yards." His labor activism included serving as a boycott coordinator for the United Farm Workers in California and driver and bodyguard for famed farm worker leader Cesar Chavez. After his work on the J P Stevens Boycott fighting for southern textile workers, Dave co-founded the National Labor Committee, which was instrumental in creating the anti-sweatshop movement. Later he served as Executive Minister of the Riverside Church.

When asked by The New York Times what he admired he responded, "Chavez, like King, was a deeply spiritual person, and both of them saw the figure of Jesus in both of their lives not as someone to be put on a pedestal and worshipped, but as someone to be followed, whose example should be followed. And who did Jesus hang out with? The oppressed and working class of his day."

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