Starbucks

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FILE - In this March 20, 2013 file photo, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks at the company's annual shareholders meeting, in Seattle, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

On June 15, Starbucks announced its College Achievement Plan in partnership with Arizona State University. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and many news headlines, including the company’s website, lauded Starbucks as offering “full tuition reimbursement” for Starbucks employees who are completing a bachelor’s degree at ASU. Unfortunately for these working students and us at UT, who are also facing privatization, that promotion is false.

The Starbucks plan only applies to Starbucks employees pursuing an online degree, which has consistently fallen short of goals around retention, passing, metrics of learning and degree completion.

Starbucks will bear no more than 30 percent of any student’s four-year tuition and fees. There are two parts of the Starbucks plan: a scholarship that reduces the sticker tuition amount and reimbursements for out-of-pocket payments. The scholarship is funded by ASU, not Starbucks, and reduces tuition about $6,500 from the $30,000 for freshman and sophomore years, and $12,600 from $30,000 for junior and senior years. After that, a student may have his or her tuition further reduced by federal grants, military education benefits or need-based aid. Then, juniors and seniors must pay out-of-pocket (or take out loans) for what remains. If they complete 21 credits, which costs about $10,000, within 18 months, Starbucks will issue a reimbursement for that amount. Starbucks will not reimburse any tuition for freshmen and sophomores, meaning that ASU’s scholarship for those first two years is essentially paying students to work while they are in school.

Working students consistently have higher levels of stress, lower academic outcomes and less time for extracurricular activities. These conclusions are consistent across scholarly studies of this issue, but are also obvious to most students, especially since the average student is working more than 20 hours a week. The Starbucks plan is only available for students working there 20 hours a week on average. A recent survey showed that students who work 20 or more hours a week typically have to reduce their academic course load to deal with the stress. However, Starbucks will not reimburse tuition unless a student completes 21 credits within 18 months, which puts working students in quite a precarious position.

Starbucks is not doing this for charitable reasons. It has two profit-related goals, the first of which is broad public relations. This is evident from the Starbucks press release and a variety of major news headlines falsely stating that Starbucks will fully reimburse their workers’ tuition — one headline even states that Starbucks is paying them to get a degree! Starbucks, like most retail companies, consciously attempts to remove the negative sting of profit-making and capitalism by selling an image of intimate relations to its customers and workers. The second goal is to advertise the Starbucks brand to the college. The ASU-Starbucks contract shows that ASU will be fulfilling most of the responsibilities to run the program, but it also requires ASU to assist Starbucks with marketing projects such as joint press releases, promotional “swag,” social media communications, and online advertising for anyone on Starbucks wifi. Starbucks advertising will be present even within educational spaces: ASU must work with Starbucks to develop a mandatory, one-week, non-credit course for students in the Starbucks plan, develop coursework such as “modules on retail management”, construct ASU study spaces inside Starbucks stores, and deliver coursework over Starbucks wifi. They want students who are working at a Starbucks store to also complete their college education there, with a few tasty beverages to get through the boring videos and all-nighters.

Starbucks is a company in a capitalist economy; its bottom line is the profit-motive, and its plan for ASU students is privatization, which has been hitting universities across the nation, including UT Austin. In reaction to the undemocratic attempt by the UT System Board of Regents to fire UT President William Powers Jr., there were outpourings of support for Powers from the Texan and other papers. All of these evaluated his record incredibly positively, but without any mention of the waves of privatization over which he has presided. Most recently, Powers has begun pushing for a privatization overhaul of student services, staff jobs and faculty recruitment as part of the “Smarter Systems” plan. UT hired the consulting company Accenture to develop this plan, despite its notorious failures with the state of Texas. After a 2005-2006 privatization contract with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Accenture was denounced by the Texas Comptroller for forcing unnecessary “massive state worker layoffs.” Smarter Systems advocates UT implementing “Shared Services,” a controversial administrative centralization plan which UT students, staff and faculty have opposed due to staff layoffs. Smarter Systems advocates restricting faculty recruitment and research to “corporate leaders” and areas with greatest “commercial success” — essentially, applying the profit motive to education. Like the Starbucks plan, Smarter Systems seeks to profit from students: it advocates privatizing student dorms, food and parking.

This would mean that Jester, other dorms, and all of the subsidized UT cafeterias and parking lots would be run by private companies, and thus also have higher costs, euphemized in Smarter Systems as “market rates.” Under Powers, UT has already implemented the in-store study spaces part of the Starbucks plan — the Student Activity Center and Texas Union are food-monopolized by private companies (with a Starbucks in each).

The current capitalist era is one with Gilded Age levels of inequality. This comparison also holds in terms of higher education and affordability. Industrialist  Andrew Carnegie was one of the wealthiest individuals in the world, with annual earnings thousands of times greater than those of his company’s steelworkers, and yet he maintained his image with philanthropic endeavors in higher education, as well as in other areas. Similarly, Starbucks has one of the highest CEO-to-worker pay ratios in the country, with CEO Howard Schultz making $28.9 million annually while the average full-time barista makes $17,580 — that’s 1,644 to 1. The robber barons are not interested in lessening the affordability gap, and it’s not just a problem at ASU. Half of UT Austin students graduate with debt, the average amount being $26,097, and are entering a job market that is still unfriendly to the idea of paying off that debt. The Texan, to its credit, recently published a series on student debt and affordability. However, we have to start talking about the cause of these problems: an unequal economy which forces students to work while they study, take out loans and pay more with each privatization scheme.

Rathi is a computer science honors junior from Austin.

Photo Credit: Connor Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

Sugar, spice and everything nice — that’s what pumpkin spice lattes are made of. Since Starbucks revealed the now-popular fall flavor in 2003, the chain has sold more than 200 million pumpkin spice drinks. This year, the drink turned 10 years old, causing a new wave of pumpkin spice obsession to surface. There are countless pictures on Instagram under the hashtag “pumpkinspice” of people holding Starbucks’ signature red holiday cup, as well as other pumpkin spice items. Some show off their Coffeemate pumpkin spice creamer, and others flaunt their freshly made pumpkin spice cupcakes and bread. According to Starbucks’ website, there have been more than 29,000 tweets that have featured the hashtag “pumpkinspice” since August 2012.

“I know that on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter, it’s hyped up by Starbucks first off, but also it’s hyped up by a lot of people just ordering them,” theatre and dance freshman Sandro Cervantes said.

After noticing the public’s love for Starbucks’ winter drinks such as the peppermint mocha, the coffee powerhouse decided to capitalize on the fall season as well. It created a drink embodying all of the sweet flavors of autumn, put them in a cup with some steamed milk and called it the pumpkin spice latte. The infatuation with pumpkin spice has spread to other big coffee brands, as well as local shops. 

One of the big companies jumping on the pumpkin spice bandwagon is The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

“Everyone loves the flavor of pumpkin and our flavor here at The Coffee Bean is amazing,” said Sylvia Gomez, shift supervisor at The Coffee Bean on Guadalupe. “It’s like pumpkin pie in a cup.”

Coffee Bean uses its own brand of syrup to make its pumpkin spice lattes. Starbucks uses Fontana Pumpkin Sauce — a syrup anyone can purchase on the store’s website or other sites online — which contains no pumpkin. The drink is popular at Coffee Bean and many other large chains, but because of the extra expenses involved in making the latte, it may not be practical for smaller shops.

“Products cost a lot, so you have to buy them in bulk,” Gomez said. “So with a smaller company it may not be worth their while. And, usually, smaller coffee shops have a stable set of guests who just like their cappuccinos or their regular coffees and they don’t really stray from the menu very much.”

Thunderbird Coffee is an example of a local shop that opted not to offer the fall treat. While it has some basic syrups such as hazelnut, Thunderbird chooses to focus on the actual flavor of the coffee.

“We used to have a bunch of syrups — pumpkin spice being one of them — but they didn’t sell very often,” Thunderbird Coffee owner Ryan McElroy said. “They’d just sit there, and that’s kind of gross just in and of itself. For months, even years to be honest, there would be syrup sitting there that never got used.”

This idea of smaller shops not offering the flavor does not always hold true. Quack’s 43rd Street Bakery, a local coffee shop and bakery, sells pumpkin spice lattes seasonally. Quack’s offers the flavor beginning around mid-October along with other pumpkin baked goods. 

“I think that when fall rolls around a lot of people look to big companies like Starbucks, The Coffee Bean and Caribou Coffee, and start going after that trend,” Quack’s General Manager Heather O’Connor said. “I think it’s up to us little guys to provide that for customers to keep them interested in local coffee shops versus big chain stores.”

Whether a fan or a critic, it’s easy to see that pumpkin spice is taking over the coffee world. It seems this hyped-up seasonal treat will be returning for many falls to come.

Recipes and tips for seasonal cooking

Though the temperature is still in the 90s, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back at Starbucks so, clearly, autumn has begun. September and October also mark the start of a plentiful new produce season geared toward warm, fall flavors. I can see the red and orange leaves just thinking about it. Well, “imagine” I guess would be a more fitting term seeing as we have rather dull fall colors here in Austin. Nevertheless, here are some guidelines for grocery shopping in early autumn and how to make use of in-season produce:

September Shopping List:
Eggplants
Pumpkins
Tomatoes
Spinach
Lettuce
Grapes
Pomegranates

October Shopping List:
Pumpkins
Winter squash
Broccoli
Sweet potatoes
Mushrooms
Spinach
Cranberries
Oranges
Tangerines
Pears
Pomegranates

For all those vegetarians out there, eggplant is a terrific meat substitute with its dense and chewy texture. Here is an insanely simple recipe for 5-Minute Stovetop Eggplant Parmesan that is perfect for a quick, comforting evening meal at home.

Ingredients:
2 medium-large eggplants
Kosher salt, for purging
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
4 small tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup cream
4 tablespoons basil, thinly shredded
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Peel each eggplant leaving 1-inch of skin at the top and bottom unpeeled. Slice the eggplant thinly lengthwise, about 1/4-inch thick. Evenly coat each slice with the salt and purge on a sheet pan fitted with a rack for 30 minutes. Rinse with cold water and roll in paper towels to dry. Slice the pieces into thin strips to resemble pasta.

In a large sautee pan heat the oil. Add the garlic and chili flakes and toast. Add the eggplant “pasta” and toss to coat. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Add the cream and increase heat to thicken sauce. Finally add the basil and Parmesan and toss to combine. Season with pepper, no salt needed as the eggplant will have residual salt from the purge. Serve immediately.


If you’re looking for an easy but fancy date night dessert, try this recipe for poached pears in pomegranate syrup.

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 large pears
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Directions:

Combine pomegranate juice and sugar in a saucepan. Peel, halve and core the pears, and drop them into the pomegranate juice mixture. Add the cinnamon stick, cloves and allspice, cover the pan, and cook the pears gently for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until they are tender.

Strain the syrup, discarding the cinnamon and cloves. Let pears cool in the liquid, then transfer pears to a bowl. Boil the liquid until reduced to 1 cup, about 20 minutes. Pour the syrup over the pears and chill.

To serve, drizzle a serving platter or individual plates with the syrup, place a pear half on each plate, drizzle with more syrup. Add a dollop of whip cream or a scoop of ice cream and serve right away.


One last tip- pumpkins and squash may be delicious and in-season but that doesn’t mean they are any less difficult to tackle on a daily basis, especially in a tiny college apartment. You may think to turn to canned, mashed squash products but those are usually pre-seasoned and/or poor quality. Stick to frozen, cubed, squash and pumpkins and roast them in the oven for the easiest and most delicious application.

Happy Fall and get cookin’.

 

 

Starbucks to improve Wi-Fi speed

Starbucks’ locations around the country will get a Google upgrade beginning in August to improve customer Wi-Fi speed.

Starbucks spokesperson Lily Gluzberg said customers can expect the new Wi-Fi service to roll out to more than 7,000 company-operated stores in the United States. The new service, partnered with Google, is set to make connection speed 10 times faster.

Starbucks and Google are working with Level 3 Communications to make the faster speeds available.

The upgrade will be implemented over the next 18 months. Gluzberg could not provide information on upgrades in the Austin area.

Follow Christine Ayala on Twitter @christine_ayala.

Patrons at Bennu study, work and relax Thursday afternoon. The coffee house features a wide variety of coffees and teas, as well as free wireless internet access.

Photo Credit: Nathan Goldsmith | Daily Texan Staff

It can be hard to study in one place. Considering studying is a big part of the college experience, moving to a new place every once in a while may help keep your eyes open for a longer period.

1. Life Science Library. Located in the Main Building on the second floor, many refer to it as the “Harry Potter” library because of its intricate ceiling designs. Come here for a robust room with high ceilings that won’t make you feel cramped while you cram.

2. Bennu Coffee. It can be hard to find a good 24-hour coffee shop to help you through an all-nighter. Located across Interstate Highway 35 at 2001 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, it has a wide variety of food, including pizza, salads and tacos.

3. Walter Geology Library. Go to the Jackson Geological Sciences Building and take the elevator up two floors to find this spot. Just don’t go there if you’re in the quiet-study mood: the librarians warn it can sometimes be a little loud.

4. Lawn behind Anna Hiss Gym. A large lawn complete with shade and benches sits right behind Anna Hiss Gym. It has the historic look of the old university architecture and puts you in a cultured mind-set to give you new ideas for that paper.

5. The Student Activity Center’s top floor. What makes this study spot great is its proximity to the building’s food court. With its pillows and beautiful second-story view, more than a few students have been known to take a much-needed nap.

6. The Texas Union. While it might be hard to stay in one spot, the Union provides all studying necessities. Also, if you’re hungry or need a shot of caffeine, there is a Starbucks and a Wendy’s in the building, among other restaurants.

7. Jester Residence Hall’s Second Floor. This place provides many different areas to study. The hallway has plenty of desks and the Gallery of Texas Cultures give you table space for group projects and a piano. If you’re lucky, you may walk in on someone playing an age-old melody.

8. San Jacinto Lounge. Located in the San Jacinto Residence Hall, this lounge is about as classy as you can get. Leather chairs and a nice baby grand piano make for one of the sharpest study spots on campus.

9. Starbucks. While not unique to Austin, the Starbucks on 24th and 38th streets are perfect spots for anyone wanting to sip a nice Peppermint Mocha or your drink of choice while studying for a test.

10. University Teaching Center. What the UTC lacks in interior design, it makes up for in silence. It has comfy chairs and is sure to be deserted after 5 p.m., so don’t forget this place for an out-of the-norm study spot.

Flavor-filled ingredients outweighed by thin pita, unappetizing atmosphere

After the small food-cart spot near The Castilian and Starbucks was left unoccupied for most of the summer, Kabob Yo has moved in with a low-key white trailer that serves up savory, robustly flavored pita wraps. But the place is still new and hasn’t picked up the slack on some glaring detractors.

On the plus side, this is almost how great kabob, shawarma and falafel sandwiches should taste. Each sandwich comes packed with all those flavors in a dense gustatory experience, where bites can vary depending upon what crunchy veggies or bit of herbs you bite into. The crisp lettuce, crunchy red onions, juicy tomatoes and mildly spicy jalapenos combined with the quintessential sweet cucumber tzatziki sauce only enhances the seasoned meats. There was even parsley sprinkled in here and there.

As for the actual meat and veggie options, each one comes with its own complex nuances. From the light hints of pepper sprinkled over the chicken kabob and shawarma to the rich, flavorful beef options, the fresh veggies only add to the jam-packed sandwich. Even the vegetarian option of mashed-up and fried chickpeas in the form of a falafel is a warm, satiating morsel.

Best of all for college students is the price. You can walk away from Kabob Yo only paying about $5 or $6. As of now, the cart is still cash-only, but for a sandwich that jam-packed, it’s worth saving some extra cash for a quick lunch or dinner.

However, there are still some kinks to work out. The pita used to wrap all this Mediterranean goodness is way too flimsy. Great pita is like a doughy cloud of heaven that delicately envelopes the fillings; it shouldn’t be thinner than the notebook paper you use to doodle on in calculus.

Nor should the gyro meat, stacked and combined pieces of lamb or beef, be as thin as the pita. All you get is overpowering flavors of those crisp veggies meant to complement and not bury the flavor of the meat or vegetarian filling. All of the gyro meats’ potentially delectable flavors are lost faster than the tzatziki dripping out of the ill-matched pita.

Ask for some fries to go with it and you get basic cut potatoes dunked in the fryer. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with some plain french fries, but given Kabob Yo’s ability to adequately season their meat, one would expect more.

As for the other parts like service and atmosphere, Kabob Yo’s exact hours of business are hard to pin down. Plus, seeing the owner of the cart walking around in a Big Bite staff shirt, the notorious grease trap located a few feet away, isn’t appetizing. The owner’s ho-hum, bland attitude is not the most welcoming to the unspectacular cart. But don’t write it off just yet until you’ve tried the shawarma or kabob.

Grade: B

Flavor-filled ingredients outweighed by thin pita, unappetizing atmosphere

After the small food-cart spot near The Castilian and Starbucks was left unoccupied for most of the summer, Kabob Yo has moved in with a low-key white trailer that serves up savory, robustly flavored pita wraps. But the place is still new and hasn’t picked up the slack on some glaring detractors.

On the plus side, this is almost how great kabob, shawarma and falafel sandwiches should taste. Each sandwich comes packed with all those flavors in a dense gustatory experience, where bites can vary depending upon what crunchy veggies or bit of herbs you bite into. The crisp lettuce, crunchy red onions, juicy tomatoes and mildly spicy jalapenos combined with the quintessential sweet cucumber tzatziki sauce only enhances the seasoned meats. There was even parsley sprinkled in here and there.

As for the actual meat and veggie options, each one comes with its own complex nuances. From the light hints of pepper sprinkled over the chicken kabob and shawarma to the rich, flavorful beef options, the fresh veggies only add to the jam-packed sandwich. Even the vegetarian option of mashed-up and fried chickpeas in the form of a falafel is a warm, satiating morsel.

Best of all for college students is the price. You can walk away from Kabob Yo only paying about $5 or $6. As of now, the cart is still cash-only, but for a sandwich that jam-packed, it’s worth saving some extra cash for a quick lunch or dinner.

However, there are still some kinks to work out. The pita used to wrap all this Mediterranean goodness is way too flimsy. Great pita is like a doughy cloud of heaven that delicately envelopes the fillings; it shouldn’t be thinner than the notebook paper you use to doodle on in calculus.

Nor should the gyro meat, stacked and combined pieces of lamb or beef, be as thin as the pita. All you get is overpowering flavors of those crisp veggies meant to complement and not bury the flavor of the meat or vegetarian filling. All of the gyro meats’ potentially delectable flavors are lost faster than the tzatziki dripping out of the ill-matched pita.

Ask for some fries to go with it and you get basic cut potatoes dunked in the fryer. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with some plain french fries, but given Kabob Yo’s ability to adequately season their meat, one would expect more.

As for the other parts like service and atmosphere, Kabob Yo’s exact hours of business are hard to pin down. Plus, seeing the owner of the cart walking around in a Big Bite staff shirt, the notorious grease trap located a few feet away, isn’t appetizing. The owner’s ho-hum, bland attitude is not the most welcoming to the unspectacular cart. But don’t write it off just yet until you’ve tried the shawarma or kabob.