Coddling a Prodigal Enterprise

    A.S. COUNCIL — The
    A.S. Office of Enterprise
    Operations has a new motto this year: waste money. It’s short, it’s simple, and
    with the council choosing to subsidize use of its Challenge Course just months
    after pumping more money into an external manager for the debt-ridden Grove
    Caffe, it’s looking to be pretty damn catchy.

    The Challenge Course, a joint operation between the A.S.
    Council and UCSD Recreation, opened in May 2004 and has since predictably
    failed as a viable enterprise. But who ever thought people would pay upward of
    $300 to play on an oversized jungle gym in the first place?

    The partnership began when then-director of Outback Affairs
    Brain Grube and John Muir College Dean of Student Life Patty Mahaffey drafted
    the course’s proposal. They shopped the concept around to various student
    organizations, but no one seemed interested until then-A.S. Commissioner of
    Service and Enterprises Colin Parent decided to feed $60,000 of council funding
    into the project.

    Unfortunately for the fee-paying student, everyone else had
    the right idea, and the series of towers has remained expensive and generally
    unused (except by councilmembers themselves, who used the course for their
    recent retreat).

    Now, after three stagnant years, Associate Vice President of
    Enterprise Operations Chelsea Maxwell announced the council is subsidizing the
    enterprise for student organizations. Basically, disinterest is so extreme that
    the council is paying people to use the course. And yet again, students see
    their governing body funnel money into something both futile and unnecessary.
    While useful resources continue to be under funded, student fees are repeatedly
    wasted trying to salvage hopeless businesses.

    The council, elected to serve students’ needs, continually
    disappoints. Why don’t councilmembers throw money into something students
    actually need and want? Parking permit costs, for example, continue to
    skyrocket each year; surely students would love that expense subsidized. Or, if
    so much A.S. money is going to be squandered, why doesn’t the council subsidize
    its own activity fee?

    But in all seriousness, what the council really needs to do
    is think long and hard about the future of its Office of Enterprise Operations.
    Over and over, the council’s businesses fall flat, and while poor oversight and
    execution are what often hammer the final nail into these enterprises’ coffins
    — what has the council ever done to properly publicize the Challenge
    Course? — poor planning and uninspired models have them doomed from
    conception.

    The argument has been made before, but why is the council
    sponsoring a challenge course anyway? And why do students need an overpriced
    A.S. cafe when the Mandeville coffee cart adjacent to the Grove is higher in
    quality? UCSD has excellent science and engineering programs, so why doesn’t
    the Office of Enterprise Operations take advantage and start up a cheap
    computer-repair business? Or even a textbook exchange Web site, backed and
    publicized by the council?

    The purpose of A.S. enterprises is to generate income while
    providing students with a valuable operation, but all the office has done is
    throw away money on things students don’t want.

    What the council needs now is to focus its efforts on
    creating something practical, not propel another Grove-like failure by
    subsidizing what was a bad idea from the get-go.

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