A.S. Priorities Amiss for Student Enterprises

    Dear Editor,

    I read with great interest Marissa Blunschi’s recent eulogy (“New Manager Detracts from Grove’s Student-Run Spirit”) for a simpler time, the days when any student could buy a cup of overpriced java from a fellow student and when the A.S. Council had few qualms about using student fees to subsidize a high-paying job for the ineffectual student employees who used to run the Grove Caffe. Ah, the good old days.

    Unfortunately, she seems to ignore a major question that most of us should have been asking long ago: Why should the student government be in the business of running a coffee shop, anyway?

    After all, the “young entrepreneurs” of the Grove for whom Blunschi has so much empathy can still find the same “hands-on business experience” she bemoans has gone the way of the dodo by getting a job at any local Starbucks — they could even save the $20,000 they pay each year for a degree that will do little to enhance their standing in the coffee-shop world. And, as Blunschi herself admits, the Grove’s menu of “salads, sandwiches and cappuccinos, though delicious, can often be found at many, much more convenient locations on campus.”

    In answering the question I posed above, I would like to resurrect the test I offered many years ago on these very pages: The student government should be in the business of running a business only when it can provide students with products or work experiences they simply can’t find elsewhere. (Note that this test applies only to the so-called “A.S. Enterprises;” nothing stops the council from re-chartering the Grove as a student service to add to its list of budgetary black holes that already receive generous student funding for alleged contributions to student life.)

    Neither the Grove, nor, for that matter, most of the A.S. Council’s other enterprises would pass my test. After all, why should students wait in line to buy a reader from Soft Reserves when they could get it hand-delivered to their classroom at a cheaper price (as they used to be able to do, before the student government kicked private university reader services off campus)?

    With all of these profit-losing ventures off its plate, perhaps the A.S. Council and the rest of us could then turn our attention to the issues that truly matter. After all, though many seem to be upset about the loss of student management at the Grove, we readers still await the Guardian article complaining about the lack of student management at the Student Center that houses the Grove, a center that was built by and is maintained with self-assessed student fees but which has never been under the student’s own control.

    — Vladimir Kogan
    UCSD Graduate Student

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