ActivateUTS Fly the Coop on Beer Protest

James Wilson

By now most, if not all, beer-swilling, proudly drunk Australians are fully aware of the Coopers’ induced brouhaha that exploded over social media like a freshly shaken can of VB. Lasting slightly longer than a Splendour-induced-bender, it was resolved by Coopers apologising — for a third time — and committing to support Marriage Equality by scrapping its deal with the Bible Society.

And then something odd happened.

The Underground and The Loft made an announcement on Facebook stating:

  • They would be donating a portion of their sales on 16th March to Australian Marriage Equality in support of equal rights for LGBTQI+ folk, and;
  • They would be ceasing their sale of Coopers products, effective immediately.

Presumably, they were hoping to cash in on some of the positive press gained by other venues who had come out in support of equality by boycotting Coopers. There was just one problem: they missed the video apology that had Coopers representatives staring into our souls; begging for our forgiveness, and for those succulent pink dollars.

Students across the political spectrum came out swinging. It was shared numerous times, evoking a range of responses — a microcosm of what had occurred on much grander scale only hours before. People started — and are currently still — reviewing The Loft as either a 5-star accepting and tolerant venue or a 1-star den full of deviants and social justice warriors. As a regular patron of The Loft, I’m more inclined to give it 3 stars and call it even.

And then, a few hours later, with no explanation, the posts were deleted.

The Underground is still selling Coopers. There is no signage to promote a boycott, nor are the staff aware of any such boycott. Sam* who works at Activate Eat.Drink argued, “We can’t be shown to pick sides.” And Peta* backed him up saying, “We are still selling Coopers”. Both levelled blame at the Licensee who, they say, posted the original statements and then deleted them.

Multiple requests have been made to Elizabeth Brett, CEO of ActivateUTS, via email and in-person for confirmation. All have been met with silence.

Zehava Heinrich, President of ActivateUTS’ LGBTIQ Club, Out2Party, states that this is not an acceptable position for their parent body to take.

“Out2Party would like to see a clear statement from ActivateUTS supporting marriage equality and an explanation of why they removed their statement of support”.

Perhaps more laughably, the President of ActivateUTS, Rayan Calimlim seemed to be not only unaware of any issue, but of any official position when contacted. They stated, “Well let’s hope they [CEO Elizabeth Brett] get back to you, haha,” before rephrasing, “I defer to the CEO”.

Much like Coopers in their attempts to “keep it light”, ActivateUTS is no doubt discovering the effects of an ill-thought-out PR stunt. One which has caused a raucous: clubs within Activate UTS are arguing with one another, and the staff and Board of the organisation are dancing to different tunes. ActivateUTS committed in the now-deleted posts to donate a portion of funds to Australian Marriage Equality on the 16th March. To do anything less can, and should, be seen as a yielding to religious and political groups on campus; and a disappointing regression to the values of mainstream society that continues to deprive certain groups of the equality and respect they deserve as human beings.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.