Behind the Counter: How the Corp balances its motto of “students serving students” with its role as a social institution

March 1, 2012

“One of the reasons I came to Georgetown was because of the Corp,” said Stephanie Wolfram (MSB ’13). “I came here during a random weekend, someone was showing me around and showed me the Corp, and I thought it was awesome that students were running this business.”

Even though a concussion prevented Wolfram, who is the Corp’s incoming Chief Operating Officer for 2012-2013, from making the application deadline in her first semester, she still maintains, like many Corpies before her, that her time at Georgetown has been defined by Students of Georgetown, Inc.

Founded in 1972 by then-student body President Roger Cochetti (SFS ’72) as a way to protect the rights of students, the Corp has grown from a few small co-ops in the 1970s to a veritable corporation, offering seven services that bring in over four million dollars in revenue per year. In 2011, Corp Philanthropy donated over $40,000 to student programs and initiatives.

Calling itself the world’s largest entirely student-run business and non-profit, the Corp acts as one of the University’s flagship organizations—Blue & Gray tour guides prominently feature the Corp to prospective students. But while the Corp is genuinely a business enterprise, the fact remains that it is run by undergraduate students. The Corp inhabits a unique space—as a multifaceted business, it copes with health inspections and day-to-day operations; as a student organization, it is a social outlet for its employees. Emails forwarded to the Voice anonymously by Corp employees reveal that the organization sometimes struggles to internally balance these roles and its status as a non-profit that must answer both to the University and to the District government.

As a non-profit unaffiliated with the University, the Corp is subject to inspection and regulation by the District government. When the D.C. Department of Health sends an inspector to campus, the Corp triggers a lantern system to make sure its employees are on guard and health-code compliant.

According to emails obtained by the Voice, when a health inspector was on campus, at least from a period from Apr. 28, 2011, to Oct. 13, 2011, the senior management would declare “Code Black,” during which health regulations were to be more strictly enforced.

During a “Code Black” on May 2, 2011, outgoing Chief Operating Officer Brooke Heinichen (COL’12) wrote in an email that “All employees on shift today must wear closed-toed shoes and have their shoulders covered. All coffee employees must wear hats. No scoopers in chai buckets, ice machines, or left on counters. No standing water (put the spoons under running water).”

“Code Black” was called at least three times in 2011. From the emails, it appears that coffee employees were only required to wear hats during these periods. Consequently, Heinichen requested that Corp employees collect any extra hats: “Any Corpies who can bring hats to any Corp service will save the day! As many hats as possible, as soon as possible.”

When initially asked whether there was a special protocol during health inspections, both outgoing Chief Executive Officer Alex Pon (COL ’12) and Heinichen responded negatively. “People are just supposed to stay clean on shift,” Pon said. [Full disclosure: Pon was formerly the Voice‘s Director of Technology].

When the Voice asked Heinichen about her “Code Black” email, she said the Corp inherited the term from previous classes “as a way of saying be on your game, the health inspector is here.” Heinichen insisted that all Corp establishments are always health code compliant.

Available inspection records did not reveal any major health code violations.

In the same interview, Heinichen said that hats are not required attire for coffee-shop employees. However, the Voice received an internal email to the Corp’s senior management sent after the interview when the hat question was asked. In it, Heinichen wrote, “Hats are the only thing that we technically do wrong.”

According to D.C. Health Code (Subtitle B, section 502.1), as long as employees serve unpackaged foods—like muffins and bagels—they are required to wear hair coverings. In fact, in anticipation of this feature, the Corp instituted a company-wide policy requiring all employees to wear hats. During the Voice’s investigation, former Vice Chair of the Corp Service and Outreach Committee Andrea Wallach (NHS ‘13) notified Midnight Mug’s staff of a new Corp-wide policy. “Everyone is required to wear hats on shift,” the Feb. 27 email to the Midnight Mug listserv reads. “[T]he health code demands it. There is no excuse for not wearing a hat on shift (and this includes people working outside the hours of usual health inspector visits) … THIS CORP-WIDE POLICY STARTS IMMEDIATELY.”

In a recent email to Corp senior management, Heinichen abolished the term “Code Black” from the Corp’s vernacular: “Let’s get rid of the term Code Black—eradicate it from use,” she wrote.

As one of the biggest and most visible institutions on campus, the Corp acts as a support group and a social outlet for its employees.

“What I found in the Corp is a family,” Wolfram said. “I got here and I really was struggling with the adjustment coming so far from home…I just had the hardest time making friends and finding my place. And I got in [the Corp] and I found a support system and people that supported me and helped me through all of my problems.”

The organization’s social ties are strengthened by the parties it throws for its employees, including welcome parties, a Christmas party, and a yearly blowout at the Georgetown Holiday Inn.

In celebration of the Corp’s “victory against the Department of Health”—the receipt of a nearly perfect health inspection certificate—Heinichen wrote in a May 2011 company-wide email that “I’ve arranged a huge party at the Holiday Inn on Wisconsin tonight with an open bar just to celebrate.”

At the beginning of the Voice’s investigation, Heinichen and Pon were asked in interviews if company funds were ever used to buy alcohol for official Corp parties. “The money comes primarily from tips, and employees contribute to the purchase of alcohol,” Pon said. “The Corp does pay for limited amounts of food and things like that. We also have an employee appreciation party at the end of every semester, and that’s sort of like room rental, and that sort of thing.”

Later, when asked about the mechanism through which employees contribute to buy alcohol at Corp-sponsored parties, Heinichen said “it’s informal.”

“There is an allocation in HR to pay for the venue and the catering. If people drink before or have alcohol, it’s not anything we have jurisdiction over or fund,” she said. “It’s not something that I regulate. It’s something that some social leader in the store decides to organize completely independent of our stores’ operation.”

According to internal memos obtained by the Voice, the Corp’s human resources budget was almost exclusively devoted to parties in the past. However, in recent years, management has rethought its HR budget, with an eye towards boosting legitimacy as a non-profit.

In an internal memorandum dated Jul. 6, 2009, entitled “Human Resources Budget,” then-Chief Operating Officer Phillip Goodman (SFS ’10) explained how the main office HR fund was expanded to be more than a party fund. “Traditionally, the human resources (HR) budget has primarily funded solely alcohol-related activities; very few line items on the fiscal year 2009 (FY 2009) budget covered expenses that were wholly non-alcoholic,” Goodman wrote. “In FY 08 we spent approximately $29,000 on HR and $35,000 on philanthropy.”

In large part, the memo describes changes Goodman wanted to make to the Corp’s financial structure. To him, these changes were important for improving the Corp’s legitimacy as a nonprofit: “When the IRS looks at our tax filings that are based on the prior year’s accounting records, it may investigate spending on HR versus living up to the organization’s mission; the mission that enables the organization to be a not-for-profit company under US tax code.”

He explained that such a substantial but otherwise unspecific HR budget would look odd to auditors. “A larger HR budget will draw more attention from the IRS than a smaller one or one clearly aligned with philanthropic contributions; our philanthropy budget and spending in a given year should well exceed our HR budget and spending.”

In Goodman’s view, decreased scrutiny from the IRS was just one potential benefit of expanding the function of the HR budget. “An HR budget that incorporates more than just spending money on parties would: (1) facilitate the realization of our new focus on professional development; (2) make our HR budget less of a ‘party slush fund’; and (3) reduce the rather controversial nature of our current HR budget,” the memo reads.

Outgoing Chief Financial Officer Scott Munro (COL’12) wrote in an email to the Voice that all event- or party-related expenses are and have been filed under the Human Resources expense for the Main Office and Accounting. The Main Office HR expense was $31,847 in 2010 and $27,294 in 2011, according to the Corp’s Annual Report 2011, the most recent available report.

In response to the 2009 HR budget memorandum, Munro recognized that Corp funds are and have been used to purchase alcohol. “I will level with you and say that a portion of our budget ends up getting used for alcohol,” he wrote in an email.

Yet Munro said much of the Main Office HR Budget is used for food and venue at the Holiday Inn. “In terms of the 27,000 dollars in MO [Main Office] budget. Like I said, a large portion of that goes towards the Holiday Inn rental charges, which do include alcohol fees, but they also include a substantial fee for space, DJing services, and other auxiliary services that the Holiday Inn provides us.”

Although acknowledging that company funds are used to purchase alcohol, Munro emphasized that the money used to purchase alcohol has been decreasing since the memorandum in 2009.

“The Corp has changed a lot over the past 4 years,” Munro wrote. According to him, the amount used on alcohol “is immensely minimal compared to the overall HR budget, and in those cases it’s not designated for alcohol use ONLY. Each service is allotted…maybe 20-60 dollars a party [not including the Holiday Inn party], depending on the size of the service. This money can be used for food, decorations, and a small amount of alcohol. If you’ve ever hosted a party 20 dollars is barely enough for anything BESIDES food and decorations. This money is not designated for alcohol, in any way shape or form.”

A significant portion of the Corp’s party funds are allocated towards the Holiday Inn—“well over 60 [percent],” according to Munro. The Corp’s public position has consistently been that the Holiday Inn checks participants for identification during their employee appreciation parties and welcome parties for new hires. “They card at the Holiday Inn,” Heinichen said.

Victoria Gamlen (COL ‘12), a two-time Holiday Inn attendee and former Corp employee at Hoya Snaxa, corroborated this policy. “Everyone, including myself, was carded before entering the ballroom and then given a wristband if they were able to drink,” she said. “I was never encouraged by my managers to bring a fake ID.”

Some managers, however, do encourage their employees to subvert Corp carding with fake IDs. The then-Hoya Snaxa Director of Personnel, addressed the carding issue in a December 2011 email to his staff: “Bring your fake, open bar at the Inn.”
Another email dated December 2008 shows the then-Director of Personnel for Vital Vittles encouraging Vittles employees to come with fake IDs in tow: “Bring your ID that says you’re 21 (wink wink) or find a Corpie that looks like you.”

Neither Pon nor incoming CEO Michael West—who replaces Pon as acting CEO today—responded to a request to comment on encouraging underage Corp employees to use fake identification.

The organization caught flak from the University last semester for one of its initiation parties.

Earlier this year, the Office of Student Conduct contacted the Corp about dangerous levels of alcohol consumption at a Corp event. Director of Student Conduct Judy Johnson sent an email entitled “Alleged CORP Initiation” to a group of senior Corp members regarding incidents on Sept. 25, 2011.

“According to the information forwarded to the Office of Student Conduct from the Department of Public Safety (DPS), a student was discovered in [a New South bathroom] in need of medical attention due to excessive alcohol consumption,” the email reads. “According to the DPS report, the student was allegedly involved in an off campus CORP ‘initiation.’” Later in the email, Johnson requested that the recipients meet with Student Conduct to discuss the Corp’s “possible connection with this incident.”

By all accounts, Corp management changed its party policies in response to the incident. “Last semester we dealt with Student Conduct in an annoyingly serious reprimand about hazing,” Heinichen wrote in a Jan. 12, 2012 email. “[A]nd we cracked down by separating any party content off of our store-sanctioned listservs and by banning the term initiation.”

Heinichen went on to enumerate what this no-initiation policy would look like from then on. “Don’t, under any circumstances, force or pressure a new or old hire to drink, and actively stop others from doing so. In every email that contains an address for a party, include a message that no one will be forced to drink,” the email reads.

“This is annoying, and I recognize that. You can write it off by saying, ‘Mom wants to remind you that no one is forced to drink alcohol at X event,’ or ‘Brooke needs you to know that…’ Put the fun-killing on me. That’s fine.” Later in the email, Heinichen referenced two new hires who were put under Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service’s care, calling it “unacceptable.”

New CEO Michael West emphasized that the Corp takes allegations of hazing very seriously and builds disclaimers to that effect into their interview policies. “The Corp does not engage in hazing of any kind. There is absolutely no pressure to drink at any event,” he wrote in an email to the Voice. “We begin every New Hire Interview with this disclaimer, and we hold true to it.”

According to West, the initiation in question was essentially a misunderstanding. “Previous to this incident, The Corp did not engage in hazing of any kind,” he wrote. “We welcome, we don’t initiate…It’s a party that got the wrong label attached to it.”

When asked about what they wished for the University at large to know about the Corp, employees consistently respond about how much time and energy they spend trying to serve fellow students.

“What I wish that people saw more is how every decision we make, we obviously think about the wellbeing of the company and the employees,” Wolfram said. “Georgetown students are at the forefront of our minds.” Whether it’s opening Uncommon Grounds at precisely 8 a.m. every day to serve the regulars, or moving thousands of boxes from the path of a hurricane, Corp employees emphasize the company’s motto of “students serving students.”

Munro said he thinks the student opinion of the Corp—and the attendant press coverage—should focus more on the Corp’s relationship with the University. Although the Corp does a service by training future business people, it still has to pay rent. “If you want to know the real travesty about The Corp, it’s that even though we give so much back to the community, teach 264 Hoyas how to run a business, and attract potential students to Campus, we still pay the University upwards of $270,000 in rent every single year,” he wrote in an email to the Voice.

“That’s the real story in all this, but nobody ever bothers to comment about it, because it doesn’t make The Corp look bad,” he wrote. “Just a thought from someone who will be graduating soon, has seen too many stupid articles written, and would like to see one that actually makes a difference written.”

Author’s Note: The names of the then-Hoya Snaxa Director of Personnel and the then-Director of Personnel for Vital Vittles have been removed at the latter’s request. The Voice initially reported that the 2008 quote was by the then-Director of Vital Vittles, which has been corrected. The quote, however, was accurate. Other slight corrections have been made.

Connor Jones
Connor Jones is the former editor-in-chief of the Georgetown Voice. Before that, he edited its blog, Vox Populi and the features section. He was a double major in mathematics and economics and is from Atlanta, Ga. He can be reached at cjones@georgetownvoice.com.

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Comments 93

  • What is the point here? A student was sexually assaulted on campus this past week. The safety of our residents ought to be the feature story. This article serves no purpose as Munro notes at the end. Go to Saxby’s they never where hats. Initiation? are you kidding me? There are fraternities on campus and organizations such as the Credit Union actually initiate their new members. Look at athletic teams on campus.

  • Saxby’s, never! Where hats?

  • The Corp bought alcohol in the past? Don’t tell President Coolidge! Twenty-three skidoo!

    Honestly though, what is the point of this? The Corp tries to be extra clean during health inspections? They have parties sometimes? I wish campus media spent half the time investigating the administration that they do on trying to slam student organizations. At least then all students could participate in the smugness, rather than just the staff of the Voice.

  • Phil Goodman was the CFO, not the COO in 2009.

  • overblown. classic Voice.

    Also, @TheVoice how was your beer Olympics a few weekends ago? I’m sure there was no underage drinking at all during that event. Oh, and that time (last semester) when two of your writers drunkenly evaded DPS in Leavy, tried to use the Voice office for sanctuary and then fell through the ceiling into the debate office while attempting to escape. Didn’t the university threatened to evict you?

    Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

    As an aside, the only thing the Voice contributes to this campus is bad writing. And bigoted attacks on Markel Starks (tehe).

  • Mr. Jones,

    I honestly love how you end the article with Munro’s quote. It gives the reader a perfect summarization of what the content of the article actually says: I tried to make the Corp look bad, ignored the real story, and wrote a bad article.

    Honesty, as a writer, why in God’s name would you put that quote in the story? It leaves the reader with the impression that he just read an article that was bad. Is that the note on which you wanted to leave your article?

    I’ve defended the Voice over the Hoya for my entire time at Georgetown. This is the first time I think the Voice has completely failed its audience. Instead of focusing on superb reporting and quality writing, it seems that the Voice tried to use the available information to fit its preconceived notion about the Corp.

    From paragraph two, the writing is terrible. Let’s break it down. What does Wolfram’s concussion have anything to do with the story? It’s completely irrelevant. It distracted me from the next four paragraphs. Maybe saying something like, “Being hired by the Corp her second semester…” yada yada yada. The “Even though…” bs makes zero sense. It’s the first example of terrible writing, and there’s many more throughout the entire article. Maybe next time you should focus more on your quality of writing instead of making an institution look bad.

    Furthermore, you basically state two separate facts throughout the article – the Corp doesn’t wear hats when it needs to and that they drink underage. This is worth of a feature? I could tell that by going into every Corp service, see them not wearing hats, and hearing them talk about their weekend behind the counter. Boom, I have the same story as you. I hope you didn’t waste too much time on this.

    The points you made, in fact, aren’t even the least bit substantive. Does any one expect the Corp to be able to perfectly follow health code with a bunch of part-time, student employees who get paid minimum wage? Every single cup of coffee and bagel and whatever I’ve received from the Corp over my tenure at Georgetown has been clean and hasn’t had any hair on it. Isn’t that the point?

    As far as expensive underage drinking goes, the Credit Union has two parties at Holiday Inn every year. Rugby has Rugby Ball. Run for Rigby has a ball. Party for a Cause has bar nights. A wide variety of organizations have open bars at Rhino. Do you think that no one else has ever suggested through email or word of mouth that someone should bring a fake id. Or is the fact the Corp did it a small number of times through email a story? Why is the Corp’s expensive underage drinking a story when all those other organizations do less for the community and have the same type of events?

    Looking at initiations, from what I saw over my four years, I would have much rathered been at a Corp initiation party, where my friends were all carried home if they were too drunk by a responsible sober monitor, than other ones. My friends at Club Baseball had to embarrassingly go streaking on campus. My friends at Rugby had to drink God-knows-what. And I’m really getting bored writing this comment, so my other friends at acapella groups, varsity athletic teams, and regular Georgetown organizations won’t be told in detail – but they were all conducted much more irresponsibly than the Corp’s initiation.

    I know that when Clare Malone or Tim Fernholtz was the Editor in Chief back in the day, they didn’t allow anonymous sources. Besides that, they would not have stooped as low as to have used emails from a student without their permission. To the current editor, that’s just classless. You’re not only making yourself look bad, but you’re making ions of Voicers look bad. It reflects poorly on your ethics and your character. It makes you look petty.

    Lastly, to the writer, reflect on how long this took you. Realize that was a giant waste of time. Realize you’ll never get that time back. Next time, write the story. Don’t try and make the story. It won’t go your way. Again.

  • As some have noted above, there may be very little point to this article. Particularly if you have some semblance of a social bone in your body and so are aware of the significantly more social societies on campus (alliteration, you’re welcome).

    However, one can’t help but be impressed with this investigative reporting. They appear to have emails dating back as far as 2008, as well as emails that certainly would have been on more private list serves belonging exclusively to Hoya Snaxa and Vital Vittles employees. As such, were these emails to be limited to one source who still attends Georgetown, Connor \James Risen\ Jones would appear to have found a senior hired their first semester Freshman year at Vital Vittles and is currently, or at least was in December 2011, on the cross over listserv to Hoya Snaxa. If he has multiple sources, well then I suppose even further kudos is due.

    Regardless, this is all child’s play. Get the B-Frat listserv and perhaps we’ll have an article worth reading.

  • To the commenter above, did I actually read that correctly that you actually encouraged harassment of Connor Jones just because he wrote a stupid article? YOU POSTED HIS FACEBOOK PROFILE! Do you have any idea how unconscionable that is? Have some respect, for God’s sake.

  • On second thought, having just noticed the link to Connor Jones’ facebook profile posted above, it does not surprise me that this underage drinking was interesting to him.

    On third thought, directed at ‘EXCUSE ME?’, it’s not difficult to find an individuals facebook – thank you for the capitals though, I was confused as to your temperament before you made that addition.

  • I’d be impressed If there wasn’t evidence that The Voice accessed the e-mails illegally. More to come on that later I’m sure.

  • Investigative reporting? If you check the police records you will find that Corp members emails were illegally hacked by the sources for this article. Wow-they hacked back to 2008. So you are impressed that they are great thieves. Stealing is stealing, not investigative reporting. The Voice has stooped to an all time low.

  • Bravo sir Bravo.

  • @EXCUSE ME? I agree. No one should be posting someone’s Facebook here. But don’t tell anyone to respect this kid. He doesn’t deserve it right now. Respecting his privacy is different than respecting his person.

  • I work at The Corp and I’ve worked at restaurants, and it’s standard for people to get more stringent with technical policy once the health inspector’s in town, mostly because a lot of the regulations are totally arbitrary (you need to wear a hat to serve a bagel? what?).

    Underage drinking is pretty standard as an organization, and, as @Deep Throat mentions earlier, our “initiation” pales in comparison to B-frat’s, where I had friends who literally had to buy a full suit only to have it destroyed by upperclassmen when they were pledging. The Corp is a very supportive and warm place to work; this false concern about the health of our new hires is overdone.


    Yes, you did, but I wouldn’t call it harassment, more like accountability.

    Do you have any idea how unconscionable it is rail against underage drinking when you are yourself guilty of the offence? Be happy I didn’t post facebook pictures of Connor Jones in the act. Although if you’d like to see those, I’d be more than willing to oblige.

  • Let me see if I have this straight.

    The list of things the Corp does wrong according to this article:

    1. Don’t wear hats at coffee shops.

    2. Take extra steps to ensure compliance with health regulations when inspectors come to campus. (As the previous poster mentioned, this is incredibly common. I worked at a supermarket for 5 years. We did this all the time. I guarantee every other food service provider on campus does the same thing. Also “Available inspection records did not reveal any major health code violations.”)

    3. They have social events where ::gasp:: college students drink. (By the way, how many other campus organizations have large end-of-semester or end-of-year events?)

    OK, now things the Voice has done wrong JUST FOR THIS ARTICLE*:

    1. Based on some posts above (and the fact that Corpies genuinely love the company and wouldn’t air its internal correspondence like this), I am pretty confident someone associated with the Voice committed several felonies by hacking into other people’s email accounts.

    *So we’re ignoring the long history of terrible writing and that time some Voice writers got high, stood out in a hurricane, and then destroyed the Hoya’s office.

    I think the Voice should probably think for a minute before casting the next stone. I’d like to see someone from the Hoya (a real student newspaper) investigate how these emails were obtained.

  • This article is truly tragic. Between the severe lack of fun comments on Vox Populi (what happened, GU student body? Why so quiet?) and this kind of drivel, I’m about ready to go pick up a copy of The Hoya. Don’t make me do it, Voice!

  • Obviously we all get fucked up in student groups, however when we drink in our social clubs, club leaders foot the bill. The Corp uses money it makes off of student purchases that could be going to its charity work, and instead spends it on booze. The Corp is a company, not a club. I have no problem with Corpies playing Edward 40 hands on a Tuesday afternoon, but they shouldn’t be using the company money to do that.

    Nevertheless, I still fucking love those garlic salt bagels. CORPOSAURRRRRRR!

  • I personally think this article depicts the Corp in a fair and honest light. It’s a well-researched piece of journalism that shows the difficulties faced by a student-run organization.

    The main criticisms of the Corp here are that 1) the services knowingly violated the health code for a sustained amount of time and 2) that a significant portion of their operating budget goes to alcohol and parties. The author does not make a judgment about these facts but merely presents them to the reader.

    I personally think that the health code requirements are unnecessary, and I personally think that the drinking age should be lowered. However, it does make me think twice about an organization that would deceive both its employees and its customers by knowingly violating the health code, and I don’t think that “students serving students” should mean that such a large percentage of the Corp’s profits go toward serving their own employees alcohol.

    That being said, I look forward to my next chai at Midnight Mug. I just hope that the Corp can use this article for self-improvement.

  • Actually, almost all of The Corp’s purchases are made by employees and store management. Also, Credit Union?

  • Agreed, and from what I know of The Corp, it always uses articles like this to improve itself, even if some of these comments make it seem other wise.

  • @Garlic Salt Bagel,

    Do you know how many companies spend exorbinant sums of money on employee appreciation and social events? ALL OF THEM.

    And most of those companies pay their employees much better than the Corp does. Corpies sacrifice a larger paycheck because the company gives a bit back to employees through the “club”-like social aspect. If you take that away, then salaries better go up.

    It’ll end up costing as much, if not more, for customers.

  • \Actually, almost all of The Corp’s purchases are made by employees and store management.\

    Really? Have you ever been in Vittles at lunch when it seems like half the hospital staff shows up? Or Midnight, after 6 PM? Or MUG between classes? The Corp is big, but no way is its workforce large enough to account for anything near $4 million in purchases each year.

    Another point – the $40,000 HR budget is NOT a significant portion of the operating budget (which, as previously mentioned, hovers around the $4 million mark). So its unfair to say that the Corp is spending a significant amount of its revenues on booze. In fact, the largest expense for the Corp is Cost of Goods Sold – in other words, paying for the things we then sell you. Another large expense? Rent. Take a look at the numbers in the last annual report – you’ll be stunned.

  • Sorry Corposaurus,
    I’m afraid pesky things like \facts\ don’t make their way into Voice articles.

  • @Tim

    Fair point. I’m sure Goldman, UBS, and Credit Suisse use their profits to lavish employees with company parties, but I doubt that UNICEF does the same. The Corp is a non-profit.

    I don’t really get the payment argument. Honestly, instead of putting money in the HR budget to spend on booze they should just boost everyone’s salaries by the same amount and make them pay for alcohol or events out of pocket. It appears more honest, even if the economics of it are the same.

    But like I said before, this won’t change anything really other than temporarily boost views for the Voice and piss off the Corp into wearing hats for a month. Not life-changing, but mildly entertaining.

  • Why can’t the Corp just pay it’s employees more and ask them to pay for alcohol out of their own pockets? That would avoid the ethics of the drinking issue entirely and bring the Corp in line with other student organizations.

    I think the article makes a good case that the Corp has turned into an obnoxious, insular frat subsidized by Flex Dollars. Also, as these comments demonstrate, they incite almost mafia-like loyalty.

  • @Corposaurus I can’t believe I’m taking the time to respond, but you misinterpreted what I was saying. Clearly the campus community uses The Corp’s services, but The Corp uses a tiny fraction of those precedes on alcohol, and as the article itself mentions, much more of it on professional development, alumni relations, etc. I was actually saying that it’s the employees themselves or store managers that actually end up paying for alcohol (not purchasing everything from The Corp)….

    @Tim Also correction in one comment, the HR budget is around 30,000, the Philanthropy budget was “40,000” which is actually incorrect as The Corp gave back $48,000 last year. This actually boosts your point, seeing as $30,000 is much less relative to the $4.6M in revenue The Corp brought in last year…

    @Garlic Salt, actually UNICEF, Habitat for Humanity, and other big foundations spend HUGE amounts of money on alcohol and employee appreciation and fundraising activities… So that’s just blatantly wrong. Thanks for playing though. They’re also only required to grant out 5% of their asset base, they can do whatever the fuck they want with the rest.

    That brings up another point: The Corp is a 501c3 because it is an educational institution. The Corp gives back to the community because they think it’s the right thing to do, and it is in the By-Laws for the company, not because of any legal requirement.

    Research before posting comments is recommended.

  • ahahahahahahahahahahhaha subsidized by Flex Dollars, is that why The Corp has over a million transactions a year? Is that why customers from the med-school, B-school, administration, and community come to their services? If anything Flex Dollars can be a nuisance for The Corp because the administration charges something like a 4% or 5% fee per GoCard transaction.

    And if The Corp paid it’s employees more that would hurt the community immensely more than a couple dollars spent on alcohol. When the current Officers cut their pay rates by 50 cents (to help the thankless community) that meant $3,000 dollars less in payroll expenses. You do the math if you want to raise the pay of 264 other employees….

    Again, more research would be helpful here friends.

  • I’m pretty sure nothing in this article is a surprise to anybody who at one point left their dorm or had more than one friend.

    The interesting point is if the stuff pulled by the Corp were done by a frat or sorority at any university with actual greek life, they’d be shut down immediately. Georgetown doesn’t allow frats or sororities because of concerns about hazing, drinking and selectivity. All things rampant in the corp. Even the community service bent reeks of a frat.

    In sum, the corp is a glorified coed frat that peddles gross coffee in stores with university subsidized rents. Cool.

  • Hazing? What “Hazing”? Are you confusing The Corp with B-frat?

  • @Alum,
    Name for me 3 student organizations that: (1) don’t hold an event to welcome new members (and that’s what the Corp does–NO ONE IS HAZED), (2) hold events where there is alcohol, and (3) have some kind of defined membership.

    Also “selectivity” sort of comes from having to hire people. Do you want people to just sign up for a shift at Vittles at the SAC fair and then wander in when they feel like it to work a register? So while you’re at it, name for me a single company that does not hire people “selectively,” but rather has open membership for anyone who wants to work.

  • People need to relax. If anything, this article makes Corp leadership look competent, professional and eager to make changes for the better. None of the quotes are detrimental. And let’s get real, everyone knows all of this about the Corp anyway. This is far from a smear article.

  • Agreed. Put it to rest.

  • I feel as a UG twice-a-week opener, I ought to make a small correction:

    We open at 7:30 a.m. goddamnit! Not 8. And yes, that half hour less of sleep means a lot to me.

  • @ Senior – I think this is why people are annoyed. The article has a tone of attempting to act as an expose, yet offers actual quotes that make Corp leaders look efficient and responsible. It feels as though the author was purposely trying to find dirt on the Corp for a traditional smear article, came up kind of short, and made a big deal out of a handful of unrelated small things.

    Simply put, it just smells of bad journalism, and to some extent, at the Corp’s expense.

  • Voice legitimacy comes and goes (mostly goes) but the Corp is forever.

    But at least the Voice isn’t picking on a single person this time (re: Markel Starks).

  • 1. The Corp does not haze. At my welcome party as a new hire, I explained that I did not want to drink too much, and I wasn’t made to drink anything I didn’t want to.

    2. The Corp pays for Holiday Inn. Our employee appreciation party. It pays for an open bar. This sums up to a negligible amount of money compared to the Corp’s annual revenue.

    3. Stores save tip money to pay for alcohol at all other parties. If the store doesn’t get enough tips, the employees put in cash.

    4. Every organization on campus has an initiation-like event. Most of them will straight-up call them intiation. This year, The Corp moved away from that.

    5. This piece took advantage of unfortunate leaks of emails that were taken out of context.

  • To all the Corp people, sorry you got owned. Excellent reporting in this article.

    So funny that commenters here think the Corp must have been hacked because the Corp employees love the Corp soo much. Apparently not!

  • I think the real story here is how The Voice got a hold of this wide ranging array of emails. Internal memos sent by Corp officers, some of which are quoted in this article, are sent to a small group of upper management officials, a group of people I can’t imagine willingly forwarding emails to the Voice given the out of context passages that have been found within, and lack of disclosure that has accompanied, past articles about The Corp. Furthermore, any person who was on the Upper Management that would have received Phil’s emails in 2009 (a junior or senior then) would no longer be a Georgetown student. So this article asks the reader to believe that the Georgetown Voice got in touch with an alumnus Corpie to supply some of these quotes – or better yet, that an alum reached out to the Voice to supply “damning” quotes on an organization that they worked hard to better? I find that very hard to believe.

    But in all seriousness, there is a high likelihood that email accounts had to have been hacked to get the quotes used in this article, and if so, the author, and The Voice, could have a much bigger problem on their hands then whether or not a Midnight MUG employee is wearing a hat while making their chai latte.

  • This one is for you Mr. Jones!



  • Hi everyone,

    To add a comment that wasn’t addressed by the article by Mr. Jones, I just thought that I’d take an opportunity to emphasize how proud I am of the Corp Service & Outreach Committee this year. Two weeks ago, many members of the committee gave up their Valentine’s Day evening to make cards for Georgetown Retirement Home residents, while others delivered roses, coffee and candy to the Allied Barton guards posted all around our campus. In addition, I’m so proud of their efforts to equip, sponsor and cheer for our young friends of Kenilworth Elementary school and their basketball teams this winter. Keep an eye out for more service projects and outreach in the spring! The Corp will be helping with the CSJ sponsored Education Week as well. I’ll be at these events and available for comment. I think my volunteers have worked hard enough to deserve a celebration!

    Very sincerely,
    Will Cousino

    Happy spring break!

  • In the above sea of predominantly misinformed comments, one blistering blunder shines through. I forget the name this person used to post this comment, since most of these names, like most of you, are irrelevant. But accusing the Voice of hacking into an email account is utterly pointless and unjustified. Have any of you ever seen these kids? They can barely print a paper, let alone build even the most basic brute-force software.

  • I love how the comments made by Corp supporters state facts, and those stated by the opposition just say the articles correct, despite the clear support of facts given in these comments.

    Would one anti-Corp comment please give a logical argument defending the author?

    Furthermore, can we all agree, no matter what side we’re on, that this was a shitty piece of journalism. Authors out there – don’t you think you could have done a much better job with the given information.

    Voice – silence the Corpies about this hacking issue. Let an independent, third party, non-Corp, non-Voice affiliated person see the source’s emails and post something about it on Vox. Let both parties agree on the person (cough, Erika Coen-Derr, cough), and let’s squash the issue. That 1) protects the source and 2) protects the Voice.

    Also, it would be nice to see an ethical defense of using private emails from the Editor in Chief. After all, this isn’t Wikileaks, this is a student newspaper.

  • @CSOC

    Also, congratulations to the book scholarship winners this semester!

  • So basically I’ve learned three things from this article:

    1. The Corp is a lot stricter about health codes when they know an inspection is coming. This is pretty much universal when it comes to the food industry. Granted, it’s not the way it should be, but I’ve seen much worse things go on besides people not wearing hats or leaving scoops in buckets.

    2. Members of the Corp drink together, many of them underage. And how is this different from any other group on campus? Thank you to whoever called Captain Obvious.

    3. The Corp provides its members with alcohol. Ummm…grass green, sky blue. I’m not entirely sure of the laws surrounding small business finances, so correct me if I’m wrong, but The Corp is independent from the university so I’m pretty sure they can do what they want with their profits.

    I’m confused. Is this supposed to be investigative journalism? Mr. Jones, your ability to incite conversation is somewhat admirable, but your ethics are extremely questionable. As an outsider myself, I’m sure what The Corp did to you, but next time leave your emotions of out your \investigations.\

  • It is unbelievable that you, Mr. Jones, would publish peoples’ personal emails about underage drinking. These names are now permanently smeared and will show up whenever googled. As an underage drinker yourself, I’m appalled by the lack of consideration for the future of your fellow peers. Respect peoples’ privacy, especially when it’s about something that doesn’t affect the student body in any way. This article should be removed from the internet immediately to protect the names you’ve published.

  • Corp leadership, you should probably call off your dogs. These absurd comments (hacking? really?) have damaged your reputation more than the article itself in my mind. Then again, the Corp board is probably in on the flaming as well. Try some actual PR. By not acting like a legitimate non-profit corporation, you’re confirming to everyone that you are just an immature, entitled pseudo-frat.

  • that brings up a good point about violation of privacy. Really unethical of The Voice not to annonomize sources cited from an anonnomous source. Id really like an investigation into just how the Voice got these emails, because if it wasnt through some voluntary source, maybe this newspaper shouldnt continue publishing until changes have been made.

  • @guy

    I thought Voice staff weren’t allowed to comment on their on articles?

  • @Anon: The Corp is a non-profit. The author’s point wasn’t that they aren’t separate from the university, it was when they advertise themselves as a philanthropic business, the students expect a little more money to legitimate causes and a little less (or none) to alcohol.

    And how was this at all unethical?

    People, this isn’t the NYT, and there aren’t that many big scandals on campus. This was a pretty good feature for a student newspaper. Corp management, maybe a memo to your staff to ease up on this kid for writing an article?

    Finally, there was a hair in my muffin last week. I’m all for the mandatory hats.


    Wait, what?

    Corp employees don’t bake the muffins, they just hand it to you?


  • The Credit Union operates a bank which 70% of the student body deposits its money in. Did you guys ever wonder where they get the money to throw 2 formal events and fund their parties? They don’t even get paid.

    Atleast you KNOW where the Corp gets their money from to fund their Holiday Inn. The Credit Union has an HR department as well. Where do their funds come from?

    This is not a bash on the Credit Union. I just think it is unfair that the Corp gets put into a bad light when other student organizations do the SAME EXACT THING. The Credit Union still calls their Welcome event for their new hires \Initiation,\ and they get no criticism for it.

  • I think the frustration for some Corpies stems from the fact that the Corp gives far more away than it spends on employee appreciation. This past year saw the Corp giving $60,000 away in philanthropy and spending $30,000 on HR (of which only a fraction goes to alcohol). However, the Corp’s giving isn’t ever the focus of these articles, and that can grow tiresome. Additionally, broader issues, like rent for space on campus, aren’t addressed. As the article only briefly mentions at the end, the Corp drops over a quarter of a million dollars on rent each year. If the University helped ease that burden, then philanthropy could be increased multiple fold. Additionally, this feeds into a larger theme, the general monetary burden the university places on all students for space. This issue is highlighted in the recent student life report. An expose on such a topic could have relevance for all students and improve life for all students. However, instead of focusing on improving student life, the Voice chooses to drag the name of one of the most charitable organizations on campus through the mud with accusations that can be leveled at pretty much every organization on campus.

  • This article, aside from being poorly written, and an attack on what are at best minor issues (which are by no means unique to the corp), is extremely irresponsible. To attribute the lines about “bringing fake id’s” to the people as named will forever connect those names to underage drinking when googled. I really hope Connor Jones never does anything remotely questionable at Georgetown. Odds that he got rejected by the Corp?



    The author of this article might have thought the Corp would consider this article and see if there are ways to improve. That was stupid of him.

  • @ wow – I don’t think you get it. If the article had done any of the following, it could have been taken seriously:

    1) Shared anything particularly revelatory or new about the Corp’s behavior that isn’t also applicable to just about every other student org on campus;
    2) Refrained from using names without the knowledge or consent of Corp employees in a manner that could be damning to their professional futures;
    3) Had any kind of journalistic coherence;
    4) Utilized a tone that wasn’t rife with insinuation/attempt to create “shock value” where there is none.

    The Corp has been criticized a number of times by the Voice and others (hey, Julie Patterson!), and legitimate criticisms are, in fact, considered and seen as ways to improve. As a Corp employee when Julie’s article came out a year or so ago, I can speak to the immediate response that many Corp employees had to step up their game and act more professional. This isn’t such an article. Julie had emotional, passionate complaints against the Corp that are shared by some students; Connor just appears to be trying to blemish names of Corp upper managers who have actually been extremely effective, efficient, and responsive to the University’s demands that the Corp tone down the partying.

  • As a recent graduate of Georgetown University, I am *truly* alarmed at how many commenters are unable to distinguish between “its” and “it’s.”

    That’s the true tragedy here.

  • I deeply valued my time with the Corp. Offering people bad service while hungover gave me the business training necessary to be CEO of a fortune 500 company.

  • Another proud Corp alumnus. Wanted to chime in and say everything I learned about running the Dodgers I learned from working in Vital Vittles.

  • I agree with many of the comments above in relation to the overreaction of corp employees to an article that really isn’t that disparaging. The article isn’t exactly constructive but these issues are pretty small. Frankly college publications rarely have anything interesting to report on, so they are just trying to write stories relevant to students at a school with few controversial issues (aside from issues stemming from the ever-controversial catholic church). The only thing I think is disturbing is the access to and exploitation of a google group (not the listserv) that has no affiliation with the Corp.

  • 1.) It’s food service. You don’t wear hats right, you don’t operate. Get over it. It’s the rules. Have an issue?- then close down all the food service vendors the Corp has.

    2.) It’s journalism. Get over it. This is what it is.

    3.) You guys attend a prestigious university. Try to behave like you do. You don’t have to act like 2 year olds and post his facebook to harass him. Obviously you don’t have anything intelligent to argue with if you do this.

    4.) This article was really toned down from what it could be, obviously. It’s fair, Jones tried to be fair.

    5.) Don’t like the paper – don’t commit the discrepancies.

    6.) It is blatant a lot of people here didn’t read it and are just chiming in for their buds and terrified of what might (but won’t) happen.

  • @John @Noel Keefer @Deep Throat

    The kid was just reporting on what Corp members told him, willingly. Oh my goodness need I have to say that again?! WILLINGLY.

    This was an internal betrayal. Look at yourselves, not The Voice. Accusing them of hacking is ridiculous. You have your fellow Corp members to thank for this.

    Maybe someone wanted to better The Corp by getting this issues addressed.

    Respect the man who did his job as a reporter fairly. Sources are not cited because The Voice respected the sources that asked not to be announced.

  • I would just like to say that groups like UNICEF do not spend money on alcohol. If a member wants to have a party, they do so at their own expense and the organization is in no way involved. We do not sanction events with alcohol as that does not fit with our mission statement. Whatever we fundraise either covers the expenses of dinners, printing, etc or goes directly to the charity. Many other campus charity groups are run through the CSJ, which keeps tabs on all our spending.

  • @informed,
    Did the reporter ask the people who graduated several years ago who he named? I doubt it.

  • Small editorial mistake, but you should probably get a better editor who knows (or at least checks) what GERMS stands for…

  • I don’t think that constitutes a “small” editorial mistake. If you’re going to quote someone in an article, you should make sure you have their permission.

    Also even if the voice acquired the emails from a Corp employee, what does it say about the newspaper when it publishes internal emails from an organization without the permission of the senders? If there is a lesson here for every student group on campus, it is beware of discussing internal matters through “private” email…because we now know of at least one publication that has no issue with regurgitating this information if they get their hands on it and think publishing it will garner attention.

  • @corpemployee

    I think the point here is exactly that nothing revelatory is brought to light, and yet the article got published anyway. This is what prompts the allegations of poor journalism. I talked to a former Corp employee who is now a respected investigative reporter for a national newspaper, and it seemed to that person that the author of the article got internal e-mails sent to them from a former Corp senior manager and felt he had a goldmine and wanted to do something with it, but there was nothing there.

    I’ll continue what’s already been said here and point out that Jones attempts to insinuate wrongdoing when there simply was none. I will say he does his job by presenting both sides of these issues (or non-issues, rather) and quotes Corp employees, but no matter, he is still attempting to create the illusion of wrongdoing when there simply was none. What purpose was there to report on the so-called “Code Black?” It was an alert to Corp employees that it was health inspection period and everyone should be on their game. It wasn’t that health codes weren’t strictly enforced before, just that extra vigilance should be taken.

    Likewise, the reporting on the year-end Holiday Inn party seems to serve no purpose. Every legitimate company I’ve ever known (and yes, that includes non-profits- of which UNICEF isn’t the only one) throws employee appreciation events where there is alcohol involved. A family member of mine runs a non-profit and I can report that they had a Christmas party in December where in fact beer and liquor were served. Oh, the scandal!

    With regards to service initiations, I was a member of the Corp for three years, was at every single new hire initiation party, and NEVER under ANY circumstances was anyone ever pressured to drink or put themselves in danger. There were numerous initiation parties where a new employee simply wasn’t a drinker, had a test the next morning, etc. and said they’d prefer not to drink, and there was no issue with that. The initiation parties are regular parties- we drink, we play games, we socialize- nothing more, nothing less. The Corp absolutely does not haze. The person who got GERMed I imagine would have been GERMed regardless of where that person was that night- whether it was a Corp party or at the Tombs. The person simply didn’t take care of themselves- that wasn’t the fault of the company.

    The biggest issue I take with the article has been articulated here already- the quoting of former employees without their consent. Now, that is the right of the author, but I will say it’s incredibly irresponsible absent a major revelation. A Corp Director reminded his friends that there would be an open bar and so if they were underage, they might want to bring a fake ID. Probably not the smartest thing to do, but also not that scandalous. But now when you Google that person’s name, this article is in the top five hits and it may mean the difference between getting hired for a job or getting promoted at a job in the future. I’d ask the author if it was really worth it considering the long term consequences this could pose for genuinely good people.

    I’d also like to echo Munro’s point at the end of the article and point out that the real story that should be written, either by the Voice or the Hoya is the fact that every year, the University comes closer to putting the Corp out of business by raising the already exorbitant rent even higher. Vital Vittles itself pays upwards of $150,000 (if not more at this point) to rent its space every single year. This is price gouging and no company renting the relatively small space could afford to pay this. When I was at the Corp, the rent for the space was increased nearly 10% each year I was there. That means that Vittles has to essentially raise its profits by 10% every year just to keep up with rent. This is money that doesn’t get paid back through philanthropy and the University should be ashamed of itself.

  • This whole argument about how when you Google the people quoted, this article appears in the top 5 hits, is patently false. Trust me, I just tried it – after typing their name, even with qualifiers like ‘corp’ and ‘georgetown,’ the article doesn’t appear until the second, or sometimes fifth page. Try to move past surfacial arguments and get to the heart of the matter.

  • The Voice is a “newsmagazine,” not a newspaper. There is a difference.

  • Oh man, that is not how journalism works at all. If you have an incriminating email from someone, you don’t have to ask their permission before you run it.

  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t an email exactly like a letter? Once it’s sent, the copyright belongs to the author, meaning the author’s consent must be received in order to publish it? No matter who sent it to the Voice, it was still private and the permission of the owner?

    It’s like if I had an original work, showed a person, who then gave it to someone else to use. That person does not have the right to publish my work just because there was an intermediary in between.

    Even if it’s not legally wrong (imagine a Corp vs. Voice legal battle – HIPSTER WAR!), it’s most certainy ethically wrong.

  • Journalistic speech is immune from prosecution (the tort of libel is applicable in some cases, though clearly not this one). Acquiring the letter is illegal, but publishing it is not. If the same person did both, they could be prosecuted only for the acquisition.

    As to ethics:

    The letter asserted the following, when read in the context of the whole article: “We are on our way to a party with alcohol, paid for entirely by a non-profit corporation that Georgetown has granted an on-campus grocery monopoly and partial cafe monopoly through its ‘party slush fund’ hidden in the Human Resources budget. I, your manager, encourage you to engage in two violations of the law: 1) Drink alcohol underage and 2) use a forged identification card to misrepresent yourself to a vendor.”

    You may not like the laws in question and think they should be repealed — you may also not think that fake IDs are newsworthy — but it is clearly ethical to publish the letters, given that they’re supporting evidence of systematic law-breaking by an organization that implicitly (via monopoly) receives massive subsidies from the student body and is accountable to no one.

    What’s highly questionable is the decision to publish the letter-writer’s name.

  • @@Steve,
    The Corp is accountable to the Holiday Inn people who accept the IDs (if the Holiday Inn said no, that would be the end of it), and they’re accountable to the police who could bust anyone for using a fake. The Corp is also just as accountable as any other 501c3 corporation on campus or in the United States, for that matter. The Corp gets audited. The Corp releases financial statements. The Corp is a legal entity that enters contracts. The Corp negotiates agreements and pays bills. If the Corp screws up in any of its dealings, it is as accountable as any other company out there.

    The Corp DOES NOT have a monopoly on campus for pretty much anything. (And the fact that you would even suggest they do means you don’t know what a monopoly is, but regardless…) Wisey’s is on University-owned property, and they sell groceries. The CVS is very close by. The University provides shuttles to a Safeway. There are competitors all over campus for lunch and dinner options, and the bookstore for many home goods-type products. There is also competition for coffee and cafe goods.

    As has been said several times already, EVEN NON-PROFITS HOLD EVENTS WITH ALCOHOL FOR EMPLOYEES. There is absolutely no reason to discuss the concept like it is some kind of terrible violation of anything.

    Also, if I recall correctly (and I might be wrong here, but I don’t think I am), Corp “profits” at the end of the year account for the massive philanthropy already taken out. So if the Corp books show a $100,000 profit, and the Corp gave $50,000 to student groups, then really, the Corp “made” $150,000 that year. So a $25,000 human resources budget wouldn’t be 1/4 of the money brought in. It would be 1/6. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but something to consider.

  • @Steve

    I get that you’re probably a 1st year law student and enjoy using legal language. It’s pretty much useless when everything you say is patently false, though. The HR budget for basically every company includes what you would term “a party slush fund”- i.e. money that goes towards company events. As the previous commentator stated, the monopoly argument is tired and factually inaccurate so I won’t even go there.

    The Corp receives subsidies? I don’t think you know what that word means. They’re not getting government grants- they’re a legitimate business and students are paying for goods and services.

  • @John: What’s your point? No one disagrees that the Corp is accountable to all the groups you named. It’s a journalist’s right (arguably his duty) to report on it, though.

    Monopoly, as defined by anti-trust regulators, simply refers to a company that commands the vast bulk of the market, regardless of whether other companies might, theoretically, be competitive. For example, if I’m studying in Lau or going to class in ICC, Starbucks and Saxby’s aren’t meaningful options so in practice MUG and Midnight face competition only from vending machines (UG, by contrast, clearly is competing with Starbucks).

    @Fritz: I don’t particularly care if a “party slush fund” exists at most companies. That’s their problem. I do care if a subsidized student group blows lots of money on parties, whether or not there’s alcohol there, because the subsidy money could be better to put to use funding, say, scholarships.

    And, yes, it is a subsidy. According to my dictionary… subsidy: “a sum of money granted to support an arts organization or other undertaking held to be in the public interest.”

    While Scott Munro may rant and rave about how high the rent is, it’s an easily verifiable fact that MUG pays $3,000 in rent annually. Catering pays $5,000. Midnight pays $20,000, as does Snaxa.

    If you’ve ever been on the market for housing, you’ll realize that the university could rent out the same space as a dorm room and earn considerably more in rent (in other words, the Corp is subsidized to the tune of [potential rent]-[actual rent]). Vital Vittles’ and UG’s rent are the only ones that comes close to actually making sense. They’re in the neighborhood of $140,000 and $40,000 respectively, and even that, if you guess its size as measured in dorm rooms, is probably a good bit lower in Vittles’ case than what a student would pay to live there, to say nothing of a real business.

    I don’t know what Starbucks pays, but I’d bet it dwarfs MUG and Midnight.

  • @@Steve,
    Your response is absolutely absurd for several reasons.

    1. You’re right that whether something is a monopoly turns on its control in a defined market. If you define “the market” as “the ICC,” then of course MUG has a monopoly. Any coffee shop in the ICC would have a monopoly because there’s only room for one coffee shop. Anyone with half a brain would realize that “the market” has to be larger than the single building you happen to be in at the moment. If you define “the market” as “the dining hall,” then guess what: the dining hall has a monopoly in the dining hall. No one in their right mind would argue that there’s a lack of competition for coffee on campus just because only one coffee shop fits in the building. Of course, you seem to imagine that the walk from the ICC to Leavey is some kind of excessive burden, and the Corp is crushing your ability to get an alternative. I think most people would agree that if you feel so strongly about getting something else, you need to buck up and allow 10 extra minutes to go to one of the many competitors located within your market. In short, markets are not defined by how lazy or strapped for time you happen to be.

    2. The Corp isn’t subsidized, even by your own definition. Who is “granting” the Corp anything? The University has set its rents, and the Corp has paid them. The fact that you disagree with what the University has valued its space at or how it chooses to structure its rental agreements is not the Corp’s problem. The Corp pays for its spaces. Nothing is being “granted” to anyone. Also, Catering pays $5,000. Have you ever seen the space that Catering occupies? If you had, you’d know how utterly ridiculous your assessment is.

    3. You said “I do care if a subsidized student group blows lots of money on parties, whether or not there’s alcohol there, because the subsidy money could be better to put to use funding, say, scholarships.” A number of problems. Once again, you misuse the word “subsidy.” Moreover, as has been mentioned already, the Corp is not a “student group”; it’s a corporation. It is not the College Republicans, or the Senior Class Committee, or GPB. It is an independent entity. It can spend its money however it wants. The fact that it spends tens of thousands of dollars in philanthropy every year should be applauded, and the fact that you’re looking critically at what it does with the rest of its money is simply because you: (a) feel some inexplicable sense of entitlement or ownership over the Corp’s earnings, and (b) have bought into the Voice’s manufactured controversy. I think you should use this outrage for something productive, though: spend some time looking into what Yum! (the owners of the Hoya Court restaurants), Starbucks, Cosi, and Coke (the only REAL monopoly on campus) spend their money on. They are also corporations operating on campus, so I guess you would be angry if they have any employee appreciation events. Hopefully the Voice will get to the bottom of that.

    4. Did you honestly suggest that the spaces used for MUG, Midnight MUG, and Corp Catering could be converted into dorms? If so, then wow… If not, then why would you use the rent-per-square-foot of a dorm as your baseline rent for retail space? I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works. Do you think the local Target pays the rent-per-square-foot that it would be worth if it were converted into equivalent residential space? This whole notion makes so little sense, I can’t go on. But if you know anyone who would like to live under the stairs in the ICC Galleria, then by all means, tell him or her to offer the University that increased rent you think it would generate.

    5. Finally, you ended one of your sentences with the phrase “to say nothing of a real business,” suggesting that Vittles is not a real business. I’m curious what your definition of “real business” is. I bet Vittles meets it.

  • The monopoly and rent issues are inseparable. The in-building monopoly status is exactly the reason rent would be higher if there were competitive bidding. The reason the university doesn’t charge the Corp much in rent is that it IS trying to subsidize the Corp, because it feels that lower rent (the only way a business as inefficient as the Corp can survive) is offset by other non-market benefits from having the Corp. Consequently, journalists should be doing their very best to determine whether the Corp is in fact providing those non-market benefits. For example, if the company is burning $20,000 a year on parties — $60,000 this year when you count the 40th anniversary party — perhaps the university should ratchet up rent by that amount and disburse the money as scholarships.

    My point wasn’t that MUG could be converted into a dorm. My point was (obviously, to any thinking person) that a dorm is the easiest reference point for the value of land on campus and in the area. Lacking a handy list of how much coffee shops pay for rent, I used that as a proxy.

    A “real” business has professional, full-time salaried managers. A “real” business is not barred by law from turning a large profit. A “real” business actually trains its employees (compare the taste of Starbucks coffee to the taste of Corp coffee). A “real” business doesn’t waste time and energy encouraging huge numbers of people to apply for low or no-skill positions just so it can brag it’s more selective than Harvard. I could go on… (And no, in case you’re curious, I have never been rejected by the Corp, though I did apply once.)

    I would not be remotely bothered if Cosi or Starbucks had an employee appreciation event, provided they pay something resembling market rent for the spaces they occupy.

  • If you plan to go after my remark that artificially suppressed rent is the only way the Corp can make money, I’d like to point you to the Corp’s FY 2011 operating income to revenue ratio (I use this to filter out the fact that the Corp turned a large profit due to gains on investments), wich was approximately 1.5%. If we add in Contributions and remove the net from Holiday Gala (HG has nothing to do with store efficiency), that rises to ~2.5%. Starbucks, by contrast, has an operating income to revenue ratio of 15%. Even if we cut that in half to account for the fact that much of the Corp’s revenue comes from grocery which is a lower margin business, it’s still 7.5%, roughly 3 times as high as the Corp.

    Maybe you think that’s not a fair comparison. Starbucks benefits from economies of scale and has much more experience in its business! There’s no reason anyone should ever expect the Corp to be competitive with Starbucks on a 100% even playing field.

    But that’s my point… if Georgetown is going to give the Corp a leg up, the Corp has to deserving of a leg up.

  • Also worth noting: try doing the budget math if the Corp spins off its two most profitable services (Seasonal, ~50% profit margin, and Catering, ~30% profit margin) because both are far outside its core competency and neither clearly benefits from association with the Corp, except maybe when stuff has to get shifted from UG or we’re a few people short on an Iron Man shift.

    Would administrative overhead decline significantly as a result? I seriously doubt it. So the company would suddenly face a ~$10,000 before-investments after-donations loss, or roughly a $36,000 profit before donations on almost exactly the same revenue it had before. A 1% collective profit margin ($40,000 profit on $4,000,000 in revenue) at the cafes and stores is pretty fucking tragic if you ask me.

  • @@Steve,

    The real flaw in your argument is revealed right here:

    “The reason the university doesn’t charge the Corp much in rent is that it IS trying to subsidize the Corp, because it feels that lower rent (the only way a business as inefficient as the Corp can survive) is offset by other non-market benefits from having the Corp. Consequently, journalists should be doing their very best to determine whether the Corp is in fact providing those non-market benefits.”

    How does the fact that the Corp spends money on its own employees in any way diminish the “other non-market benefits from having the Corp.”

    You likely disagree, but I think many people think that some of the benefits of the Corp are as follows:

    1. It’s an incredible learning experience for many who work there. And I can tell you for a fact that professionals outside of Georgetown are amazed by the kind of work and dedication that goes into running a Corp service. While you seem to think it’s a joke, I can tell you that it’s not. And the people who do it learn a ton.

    2. The Corp gives tens of thousands of dollars a year back to the community, often acting as a funding board where the University fails.

    3. The Corp, because it is made up of all students, participates in Georgetown life in a way that faceless outside companies wouldn’t.

    4. The Corp genuinely tries to tailor its services to Georgetown students, often sacrificing profits to provide a better service. Look at the cost of accepting Go Card. The University charges an insane 5% fee on every Go Card purchase. A lot of “real businesses” would decide not to take Go Cards, especially at grocery, where 5% can KILL a margin. Movie Mayhem and the Book Co-op were allowed to exist YEARS after they became unprofitable because Corp management thought they provided a service to many students. Coke prices were held at artificially low levels for DECADES because it was one of the original aspects of the Corp that Corp management found important. (Many other products are also priced as low as possible. Vittles sandwiches should all cost $.50 more than they do.

    5. The Corp employs a huge number of students. Because the whole company is made up of students, it sets up scheduling in a way that facilitates far more students getting involved that would be necessary if the Corp were purely profit-driven. Rather than having 5-10 random 30-40 year old employees who work full time jobs, Vittles alone employs 50-60 students who want a convenient on-campus paycheck.

    6. The Corp provides all the social benefits of a student organization. And don’t confuse this with actually BEING a student organization. It isn’t. But one of the non-market benefits is that the members participate in something that they care about, and that comes with the same “non-market benefits” as any other club.

    7. The Corp is used by the University to sell the University itself. And I can tell you for a fact that students are drawn to a business as unique as the Corp (as well they should be).

    None of these lessened even the slightest bit by the fact that the Corp holds employee appreciation events.

    Now if you think that the University could jack up rents and make more than than the Corp gives back, that’s one thing. I disagree for many reasons (for instance, most “real businesses” would demand the University make MAJOR changes to Corp spaces before paying even what the Corp pays. Can you imagine a CVS moving into Vittles knowing that all its deliveries had to go up a small elevator that breaks with shocking regularity?). But the notion that the University would turn that extra rent money around and give it back to students in any way that meaningfully impacts student life is preposterous. You complain about inefficiency, but want more money to go through the University’s hands? Insane.

    Next, your rent comparison is still absurd. A space like MUG or the Corp offices cannot ever in any universe be converted into dorm space. Therefore, its value is quite different from dorm space. By your logic, three parking spaces in the garage could bring in the same rent because, hey, it’s the same square footage! But obviously the spaces are different, and their values are not at all comparable.

    Moving on, most of your qualifications for a “real business” (which are completely arbitrary, by the way) are things that could never change in an all-student 501(c)(3). Full-time salaried managers and “turning a profit”? So you just have a problem with the concept of a student company. Those have nothing to do with how the Corp actually operates. The Corp does train employees, period. And encouraging numbers of people to apply is a bad thing? I was there when the Corp started making concerted efforts to increase applications. The real reason: so that more of the community tried to become involved and we would end up with a broader pool of applicants. It had (and still has) literally nothing to do with bragging about selectivity.

    Finally, I get it: you’re a disgruntled Corpie. Maybe you’re the one who fed Connor his emails. Regardless, you’re grossly misinformed and obviously have a bone to pick with something your “friends” and classmates love. I hope it makes you happy to take anonymous shots at it like you have been.

  • 1. I agree.
    2. I agree.
    3. I agree.
    4. This is where we disagree. If we want the Corp to do the maximum good on campus, we should charge the profit-maximizing price for our stuff and give the money back in the form of scholarships. Think of it in these terms: What does more good for the campus community, tens of thousands of bottles of coca cola subsidized by the Corp to tune of $0.25 each or several tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships? (In fact, it’s worse than that because the bulk of a subsidy on groceries and coffee will go to the students who already have the most money, because they do most of the spending.)
    5. I agree.
    6. Most other groups are self-funded.
    7. I agree.

    What I don’t get is why saying that we do some good is also an excuse for wasting money. Do you really think that $20,000 couldn’t be put to better use? I’m all in favor of dancing and getting blackout drunk — it’s fun! — but why is there a taboo on suggesting we give that money to kids who actually need it and kick in $40 each for Holiday Inn? I think it’s a journalist’s job to

    Agreed. Dorm rent is imperfect as a tool for calculating cafe or retail rent. If nothing else, though, the variation in rents the Corp is charged should tell you that there’s something very, very odd going on. Midnight pays half what UG pays, and MUG pays one tenth of what Midnight pays. Midnight and UG are roughly comparable in size and the hours they’re open, and of the two Midnight generates 40% more revenue, so those rent numbers make no sense unless the university is making an active effort to support the Corp.

    Maybe I should’ve added another characteristic to that list. A “real” business is, normally, accountable to its owners. The owners of the Corp are supposed to be the Students of Georgetown. We’re all shareholders, right? But when a journalist tries to hold the company accountable, everyone goes batshit insane and starts complaining that, you know, actual Georgetown students “feel some inexplicable sense of entitlement or ownership over the Corp’s earnings.”

    It’s really depressing to think that my friendship with other Corpies really is based not on mutual affection but on loyalty to our employer. And no, I didn’t leak the e-mails. But now that they’re out there I have as much right as anyone else to comment on them and the company that sent them.

  • Oops. Lost a sentence there.
    It’s a journalists job to… [make that a part of the debate].

  • @@Steve,

    The debate over how best to serve the community has been going on since long before you were a Corpie. Should the Corp try to maximize “profits” and give back in the form of larger donations and/or scholarships? Or should the Corp try to save its customers money, “profit” be damned, or operate services that are no longer profitable but that people rely on or enjoy? I think the Corp has always tried to balance the two by keeping prices as low as possible while also running a business that is successful enough to allow for significant giving back.

    You clearly think that the Corp should just focus on maximizing “profit” and giving back in larger, grander ways. There were people on my UM who felt the same way. There have probably always been people who have wanted to commit to your preferred course. It’s amazing that the Corp’s decision to take a middle road has caused you to become so disillusioned.

    I’ve always thought that funding a small number of big scholarships isn’t really “serving students” in any broad sense. It would just be serving a couple of prospective students. And I realize there’s value in that, but I don’t think it’s the Corp’s core mission. (Like I said, others have disagreed with me, and I respect that. But those who have disagreed with me have done so while still respecting what the Corp does.) (Also, as an aside, I think the Corp could do other things that would better fit its core mission. The fact that they have not done so has not made me bitter, though.)

    You seem to think that employee appreciation events are “wasting money,” and they aren’t. The vast majority of companies in the world do them, even “real” ones. If they were a waste of money, shareholders wouldn’t stand for it. Clearly, they do because such activities are so commonplace. (They also happen in government jobs, non-profits, charities, and every other kind of organization that has an interest in fostering loyalty among its staff.) So if the HR budget is what allows the Corp to attract the employees who are dedicated enough to put in the time and effort it takes to keep the Corp running and generating the larger sum of money that is given back to campus, then yes, the trade-off is worth it. The “waste” would be abandoning HR activities, losing the dedicated workforce, and losing the ability to generate the money that is given back.

    Again, your “accountability” argument comes down to an aspect of the Corp that can’t possibly be changed: it’s a 501(c)(3). It doesn’t have “owners.” It’s accountable to the IRS. It’s accountable to its Board of Directors. It’s accountable to customers. It’s accountable to law enforcement. In its contractual dealings, its accountable to the University, vendors, contractors, etc. In short, it’s accountable to the exact same degree as any other similarly situated corporation.

    What everyone went batshit insane about was the use of inside emails to publicly present communications that have NOTHING to do with the legitimate debate that we’re having. None of your arguments have to do with the “Code Black” issue (which, as posters who have worked in “real” food services can tell you are commonplace), and none of them have to do with the fact that Corpies drink, some possibly using fake IDs. So why are those issues and those internal emails being publicized?

    I’m sure your friendships have to do with mutual affection. But that affection may justifiably wane if your friends learn that you are the sort of person who works for a company that you secretly dislike, and then you condemn that company, while all along your friends dedicate themselves to making it better.

    I’m also curious who you are. Odds are decent we know each other.

  • The Corp faces a labor market in which it could probably provide zero non-wage benefits (scrapping even shift drinks and the employee discount, though I’d be very hesitant about getting rid of either) while still filling every position with a qualified, committed applicant. All those freshmen who tell us that they came to Georgetown to work for the Corp wouldn’t work less hard if they had to shell out $40 a semester for Holiday Inn.

    It’s an old economic principle that, for the most part, people get the most use out of money when they decide for themselves how to spend it. It would make much more sense to divide our profits by the number of students and send each one a check for that amount than to give discounts that will accrue for the most part to a relatively small group of students, and far from the neediest ones, as they are presumably highly price sensitive and hence likely to go to Safeway regardless. I do understand the emotional appeal of making stuff cheaper, I’m just not at all clear on how that materially benefits the community.

    So the whole “every Georgetown student is a shareholder of the Corp” thing is not actually true?

    I don’t know where the other commenters worked, but everything I’ve ever heard about chain restaurants is that they have vastly stricter health standards than the DoH. In high school, my friends who worked at McDonald’s joked that the health inspector only ever visited if he needed to bone up on procedure. Why we, with 40 years experience running stores and almost 20 years experience running coffee shops, have such trouble following a very straightforward set of laws about hats, gloves, closed-toed shoes, etc. is beyond me. I think it raises very serious and legitimate questions about the company’s current and former management.

    Isn’t debating company policy in a public forum (albeit an anonymous one) with someone who is (probably) the outgoing CFO a valid attempt to make the company better?

  • I don’t have time right now to respond (maybe tomorrow). But just so there’s no confusion, I am absolutely NOT the outgoing CFO. I am not a current Corp employee and in no way speak for the Corp.

  • For those keeping score at home, it’s @Steve with 30 strong points and John with 5 improper uses of “flawed logic.”

  • I don’t understand why people would think John is me. It’s funny though. Final note, John’s philosophy on The Corp’s philanthropy grants contradicts mine, and he doesn’t capitalize the “The” in The Corp (those who actually know me, know that’s something I’m a stickler for). Definitely not me. I also think 88 comments is silly, just a side note.

    The only clarification I’d like to make is when I said we shouldn’t be paying 270,000 in rent, I meant we should be paying less and putting that money directly towards scholarships (something which Georgetown lacks in a serious way). I’m sure there are other clarifications I should make, 90% of the comments here are BS (both from Corp employees and non-Corp employees).

    Also, to the person who pointed out MUG and Midnight’s rents being low (and nonexistent in MUGs case) note two things: 1) MUGs rent is paid in scholarships (8,000 a year, look out for the scholarship application soon!), something I’d love for more of our other rent checks to go towards (see above for reasons) and 2) if you look at our other rental numbers you’ll see where the other 220,000 comes from.

    Just some thoughts from somebody that doesn’t matter anymore. Hope everyone’s enjoying Punta Cana.



    PS I actually think the article is great!

  • Word got around you were trolling the comment thread :-) My apologies for misidentifying you. Shouldn’t listen to gossip so much.
    If you’re here anyway though,, why does a $2000 rent for MUG show up on the annual report? Also, could you clarify exactly what the company’s position is with regards to whether students are all shareholders? Thanks!

    Also, I’m (obviously) not speaking as a representative of the corp. I’m here purely in my capacity as a concerned student of Georgetown. Nothing in any of my comments reflects facts that are not already part of the public record, either through this article or the annual reports the corp is required to make public.

  • @@Steve,
    I’ve been (and still am) busy, but just to respond to one point (and I’ll let Scott respond for himself):

    Yes, the students are “shareholders” in the sense that they are the Corp’s primary focus and most important constituency. And to the extent students make up the campus population that keeps the Corp running, of course the Corp is accountable to students. I also think the Corp held an open meeting sometime in the last year or two for that very reason.

    I just meant that the Corp isn’t accountable to “shareholders” in the way that an “owned” company is. Students obviously don’t have stock. They don’t have voting rights. There are just basic aspects of being a “shareholder” that don’t make sense or that are outright impossible dealing with a 501(c)(3) where the “shareholders” (in the figurative sense) are an ever-rotating population of students. Traditional shareholders have ways of keeping the companies they own accountable that don’t apply to the Corp. Of course, Georgetown students have ways of holding the Corp accountable that don’t apply in other contexts.

    And I never suggested that students and the student press shouldn’t hold the Corp accountable. My problem is with the fact that this article tries to hold the Corp accountable for things that should be non-issues.

  • John responded basically how I would, we don’t have shareholders in the same way that a company that has a number of equity holders does. Technically ownership transfers every year to the new Officers and the Chair of the Board.

    I can’t really give “the company’s position” on the community being shareholders, but I can give my view on the matter. We use shareholders loosely when we talk about the Georgetown community, because frankly we do our best to treat the Georgetown community like shareholders (which is why when articles come out, we do our best to use them as a means of making ourselves better, sure we may get a little peeved off about it, but it’s only because something we’ve put thousands of hours into is being attacked, and I can tell you from personal experience we are always, every single day and most waking moments, trying to make The Corp a better institution). So basically, short of actually voting for our Board (which would make The Corp’s Board no different than GUSA), the community members are really shareholders, in that we do everything in our power to keep them happy (even if from the outside looking in it doesn’t seem that way).

    As for the MUG rent being 2,000 that may have appeared because for some reason some of the philanthropy checks that were written were attributed to rent, while others were attributed to “Contributions” I’d have to double check. The bottom line there is that our MUG lease stipulates that we give out (now) $8,000 dollars in scholarships. I think last year it was actually $5,000. Again, I’d have to double check that. The point there is that I’d rather more of our leases be structured this way, or at least in such a way that we can devote a portion to some cause on campus (say, faster or more efficient maintenance for dorms, or a new scholarship fund, etc, even $50,000 dollars less a year could really help out students if it were targeted right). The bureaucracy behind making something like that happen, however, is a jungle. As a couple commenters have noted, and I tried to make clear with my quote, there is an actual, meaty, and meaningful article to be written on the University and how it deals with GUASFCU, The Corp, and charges other student groups sometimes $500 dollars just to use a room on campus, I mean really? That’s something that wouldn’t even focus on The Corp, that effects the whole student body in a real way, but what do I know.

    There was a point in time when I thought it would actually be a cool/innovative idea to have members of the community actually pay a small fee to be a shareholder of The Corp. I think, although a cool idea, we would run into some trouble with legal technicalities and I’m not versed enough to tell you that we definitely could or could not do it.

    Also @Steve, you should never take rumors as fact, tam ficti pravique tenax quam nuntia veri. Although I was definitely trolling these comments, how could I not?