Colonial Cash’s inception at the beginning of the 2003-04 school year had a revolutionary impact on life in and around GW. For students, Colonial Cash provided a quality alternative to poor service and variety in J Street. For area businesses, accepting Colonial Cash resulted in ballooning profits and an expanding customer base. Not surprisingly, many area businesses lined up to join the program, but to no avail. Standing behind bureaucratic rhetoric, the University has temporarily suspended adding new partners to the program, claiming they are trying “to ensure that GW students have access to the most optimal blend of shopping opportunities.” This double-talk – resulting in a 70-business waitlist – either results from the University’s newly inked contract with Aramark or worse, a sign of seriously misinterpreting student sentiment.
Aramark’s renegotiated food service contract is a potential roadblock to continued Colonial Cash expansion. This page and some students have repeatedly argued that Colonial Cash served as a potent tool during GW’s contract renegotiations with Aramark. After the advent of Colonial Cash, the food service provider saw a substantial reduction in its profits. It is entirely possible that Aramark arranged to freeze the expansion of Colonial Cash before agreeing to renovate J Street and sign a 10-year contract – there are few other plausible scenarios. If this were the case, after achieving its objectives, the University would no longer have the incentive to continue improving the Colonial Cash program; accruing to mere protectionism of its new on-campus investment.
It is also possible that as part of its contract with Aramark, the University draws a significantly larger percentage from sales in Aramark-owned venues as opposed to those accepting Colonial Cash. If the University were to make a higher premium from Aramark, it would be in its best interest to limit future competition.
Unfortunately, each of these scenarios centers on mere speculation, currently, the terms of the University’s contract with Aramark are still a secret. In the interest of full disclosure, the University should release the terms of its contract to the public. Doing so will enable them to dispel rumors and suppositions, which add up to substantial negative public opinion.
If neither of the aforementioned ideas is correct, the University is making a poor business choice. Assuming a venue meets certain health and viability requirements, it should be able to join the program, or at the very least, receive an up or down decision on their application. GW could institute a one-year trial for businesses on Colonial Cash as a compromise. After the trial period, both the business and the University could have the opportunity to evaluate the viability of the continued use of Colonial Cash at a particular establishment.
If there is an opportunity for Colonial Cash to expand, the University should create a committee of students and University officials to govern the effort. Including student voices on such a committee would enable the administration to live up to its vague assertion of seeking an “optimal blend” of options for students while continuing to improve the reach of the program.
To most students, there appears no logical reason why the University is not aggressively pursuing the expansion of Colonial Cash. If there are legitimate reasons as to why this is not occurring, it is in the University’s best interest to be forthcoming about them. If there aren’t any, students deserve the truth about its new contract with Aramark. Not doing so only erodes student confidence in the administration’s claims of a “student first” philosophy.