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Q&A: St. Ben's student protesting bottled water ban

Posted by: Jenna Ross Updated: September 14, 2011 - 3:15 PM

College Republicans handed out bottled water at the College of St. Benedict on Tuesday to protest its new ban on the sale of and use of school dollars on bottled water. (More about that ban here.)

Kate Paul was one of the protesters.

She's a St. Ben's sophomore and a Minnesota College Republicans leader. She spoke to us Wednesday about the group's efforts. The conversation has been edited for length.

How did yesterday's protest go?

It went very well. We got a lot of takers. We were very respectful about it. We weren’t forcing students to take the water. We were just giving them a choice -- which was our whole point. That students should have a choice. We had a few people confront us quietly, but overall, the response was pretty positive.

Where did the idea of protesting originate?

I think it was hashed out by some other CR’s who were discussing it. The chairman, Ryan Lyk, brought it to my attention. I ran it past the executive board of our chapter. They thought it was a really good idea, that it would start the year off with a bang.

Why focus on this, rather than another issue?

We wanted to pick something students wouldn’t exactly think of as a conservative issue.

Students often take what the administration hands down to us and don’t really question some of the effects. So we wanted to provide that other voice and remind students that what the administration or the sustainability office says isn’t the end-all, be-all.

When did you first hear about the ban? What did you think then?

I am a sophomore, so I was here last year. I remember being asked to sign onto the ban and saying, that’s not anything I’m interested in. The college is also starting a cap on how much paper we can print. I believe that was another sustainability office effort.

There’s a progress occurring that we picked out as a club. We began to see this and wanted to make sure that at some point we spoke up about it.

Do you think the sustainability office is heading in the wrong direction?

We weren’t disputing any of the goals the sustainability office would like to achieve. We do think a bottled water ban is costly and not necessary. The counter action to banning bottled water is to install these hydration stations, which is all good and great. They’re convenient and free to use. But something you don’t think about is installing and maintaining them, which costs money.

It is inching in on our personal choice and taking away our option to live a certain way. Sustainability is a way of life, and we believe students should be able to choose that way of life. College is a time when you make life choices… we feel this ban is regressive in that aspect.

How do you respond to the argument that you chose a private college, and that the college makes choices all the time that influence your life as a student?

This ban wasn’t looked at long enough. Yes, the ban was student-led, which was great. But just because 1,000 students wanted this ban doesn’t mean it was the best choice. That doesn't mean the other people can't speak out.

What other issues does your group deal with?

We obviously try to focus on relevant events and current events that are going on at the time. Because sustainability is the campaign that has been taking place on campus, we chose to put some focus on that.

Next week, for example, we’re going to talk about jobs and what the Obama administration has and hasn’t done to improve the job situation that we will be facing as we enter the workforce. That’s really relevant for students right now.

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