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New bookstore with cafe creates stir

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@chronicle-tribune.com

UPLAND — Tree of Life bookstore and Taylor University are working toward construction of a campus building that would house a Tree of Life bookstore and possibly a Starbucks cafe.

Jim Garringer, Taylor’s director of Media Relations, said the new building will include three campus elements, including the bookstore, including items such as Taylor spirit wear – the university press and the campus post office.

Garringer the buildings where these items are housed have outlived their lifespan and university officials wanted to upgrade that part of campus. Garringer said partnering with Tree of Life to build a new facility was a great way to do that. But objections have been raised about locating a Starbucks in the proposed building.

Jim Spiegel, a professor of Philosophy and Religion, said the objection is due to a belief that Starbucks is not in good alignment with Taylor because of “respective stands on the sanctity of life and human sexuality.” He said he thinks it would be more “beneficial to the community to partner with a local coffee provider.”

Stephen Richardson, area manager at Tree of Life, relayed a statement from Tree of Life that said there are many details that have yet to be finalized, but the building should be completed this coming summer.

“We value our partnership with Taylor University and are working to make this a beautiful and complete campus store that brings value to the school, students and community,” the statement said.

Though unsure if an agreement with Starbucks has been completed, Garringer said it does appear that Tree of Life is working to include the chain cafe.

Garringer said the cafe was originally a Tree of Life idea, but Taylor would have signed off on the decision since the two are in partnership regarding the building.

Some students and faculty members made their objections known with a petition, drafted by Spiegel, circulating campus in hopes to terminate the idea of a Starbucks.

Spiegel said within 10 days the petition had 230 signatures, many of which were students.

The objection, he said, is specifically toward the proposed Starbucks store on campus, not to the Tree of Life bookstore itself. He said Tree of Life is a company whose values do align with Taylor’s.

Garringer said the idea of having a coffee shop in a bookstore is not uncommon and the Gas City Starbucks at Ind. 22 and Interstate 69 is frequented by students.

“We know students, faculty and staff will visit the Starbucks in Gas City, so it’s a highly widely recognized brand,” Garringer said. “And having a coffee shop in a bookstore is not an unusual thing either. You go into Barnes and Noble and they have a coffee area or Books a Million in Muncie, they have a coffee area, so it’s a natural association.”

Garringer said a compelling factor in bringing Starbucks into the new facility is that it’s a well-recognized and well-loved brand, one he said could add something to the community of Upland.

Taylor President Paul Lowell Haines has addressed the objections via email, stating that because of the popularity of the coffee shop they expect it will be welcomed by most, but the voiced concerns have been heard and will be considered.

He said like many mega corporations, Starbucks is outspoken on social issues that are not in alignment with Taylor’s stance on those same issues. The President’s Cabinet has met to discuss the issue, he added, and have weighed the possibility of other providers.

He said they also discussed that there is already a usage of other contractors and products on campus that don’t align with Taylor’s beliefs and standards – products ranging from Nike to Hallmark.

“Today it is difficult, if not impossible, to draw an effective or reasonable line on contractors and service providers to the University based on social, religious or political positions,” the statement read. “We do not ask our service providers to supply a list of every position they have taken on highly charged social issues, nor would we.”

Though the university is contracting Tree of Life for this new facility – which includes the potential relationship with Starbucks – Haines said Taylor officials are working closely with Tree of Life to make sure the bookstore and coffee shop hires will be consistent with Taylor’s standards.

Additionally, the coffee shop wouldn’t be able to “advertise, publicize or advocate any corporate positions on social issues” on campus.

“Basically, we hope to receive a top-quality, name-brand coffee shop on campus, albeit one that at the corporate level may be tied to social positions to which we do not agree,” he said.

Lastly, Haines said if Starbucks does come to campus, he said they’d be joining institutions like Liberty University, Olivet Nazarene University and many other Christian universities.

Aside from concerns about Starbucks not being in line with values at Taylor, some have concerns about the coffee shop taking business away from the campus’ own, The Jumping Bean, located in the Boren Campus Center.

Campus newspaper, The Echo, reported that one student contended The Jumping Bean be expanded and  placed in the new building.

“We also recognize the importance of a full service coffee shop being readily available in the Boren Campus Center,” Haines said in addressing concerns about the current cafe, “and are committed to maintaining a strong coffeehouse presence in that space.”

Spiegel said those who have signed the petition want the plan to host a Starbucks terminated.

If the plan does go through he said he would be deeply disappointed along with many others, which he said would not be good for Taylor or for Tree of Life.

“There are plenty of other options for coffee providers which would make a good fit for both Taylor and the Tree of Life bookstore,” he said.

Garringer said costs for the building are shared by Tree of Life and the university.