Corp Needs Competitors
Published: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Updated: Thursday, August 30, 2012 23:08
There are close to 7,000 undergraduates at Georgetown, about 270 of whom are employees of Students of Georgetown, Inc. While we support our peers and hope that The Corp continues to thrive, it’s time the university allowed greater on-campus business competition in the interest of student consumers.
We are not implying that the university holds the hand of The Corp. According to CFO Vidur Khatri (MSB ’14), The Corp pays roughly $250,000 to Georgetown in total annual rent. But The Corp maintains too tight a grip on the on-campus market, and the inclusion of more outside businesses would provide students more choices and, potentially, better value.
Most obstructive of open competition, we believe, is the university’s formal endorsement of Corp Storage. Georgetown prohibits outside competitors from even advertising on campus, while allowing The Corp to market itself freely and access dormitories. It’s one thing for a business to dominate an industry solely on merit, but this institutional advantage creates a disadvantage for student consumers.
This is not the only example of Georgetown offering The Corp a leg up over the competition. When allotting space for the planned New South Student Center, The Corp was allowed to secure a location for a dining establishment before outside businesses could express interest.
And while Khatri said that The Corp pays rent for its Uncommon Grounds location comparable to that paid by other businesses in Leavey Center, it also rents space in several venues on campus where it’s the only service of its kind. Most notable of these is The Midnight MUG in Lauinger Library, for which Khatri said The Corp pays “pretty favorable rent” — almost $20,000 in fiscal year 2011, according to The Corp’s most recent annual report.
It should be noted that The Corp generally offers highly competitive prices for each of its services. But that does not negate the importance of having an open on-campus market. Even if the university elects to support a student-run enterprise, it should still strive to give its thousands of student consumers an array of competing on-campus options.
The Corp has been a Georgetown mainstay for 40 years, and it has earned the respect of many students and the administration. Our request for greater competition should not be viewed as a general dissatisfaction with The Corp but rather a desire to provide all Georgetown students with the most advantageous consumer marketplace.
Defenders of the status quo will likely argue that, given The Corp’s position as a nonprofit and large student employer, the university should be interested in its continued success — and they’re right. But we also expect that greater competition among on-campus businesses would benefit the entire student body. We hope to see Students of Georgetown, Inc. continue to flourish, but not without the greatest possible consideration given to the needs of all Georgetown students.