With seven storefronts on campus and a wide range of coffee and snack offerings, Students of Georgetown, Inc., commonly referred to as The Corp, gives students convenient food options on campus.
But, though the company is supposed to serve everyone in the Georgetown University community, its cashless policies are discriminatory and must be changed. The Corp must return to accepting cash to make The Corp accessible to all of its customers.
The Corp first adopted a cashless model in February 2018. Now, all of its locations display prominent signs reminding customers that cash is not accepted. Instead, customers can only pay with a GOCard, credit card or debit card.
The cashless policy places an undue burden on those patrons who do not have easy access to a bank account, which disproportionately affects communities of color and immigrant communities.
While Georgetown has two machines — in Lauinger Library and the Leavey Center— that allow customers to load money onto their GOCard with cash, these machines are rare and puts the burden of shopping on consumers. Though a good step recognizing the issues cashlessness presents, the machines are an insufficient solution to the burdensome nature of cashlessness.
In 2017, 6.5% of all households in the United States were not served by a bank, with the black and Hispanic populations at more than twice the national average percentage, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Without access to government-approved IDs and social security numbers, immigrants without documentation do not fulfill many of the guidelines set by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to open a bank account.
Under The Corp’s current policy, these unbanked consumers have significantly limited payment options.
The Center for Multicultural Equity and Access is working with these immigrant students to increase banking access, according to Associate Director for Undocumented Student Services Arelis Palacios. But it is incumbent on The Corp to make its services easily accessible to everyone — the machines are a good step forward but are not a pervasive enough solution for a business that has locations across campus.
Moreover, for visitors on campus, The Corp’s cashless practices further limit people’s payment options. Without a GOCard, visitors cannot even use cash machines to put money on their cards to make purchases, making it impossible for those without bank cards to purchase even a cup of coffee.
To justify its cashless policy, The Corp cites the increased security of online payments and the streamlining of its operations, among other reasons. While these reasons are valid considerations for the business, inclusivity, accessibility and ease of use should be prioritized.
The Corp is aware of the limitations of cashless payment and is prioritizing the resolution of these limitations, Corp President and CEO Seo Young Lee (COL ’21) wrote in a statement to The Hoya. Simply reversing the cashless system is the most straightforward and comprehensive solution.
Reversing its cash ban would also allow The Corp to stay ahead of the Council of the District of Columbia legislation that would prohibit businesses from refusing cash. Rather than waiting on legislation, The Corp should be proactive on this issue for the sake of its customers.
While the transition process may pose inconveniences for The Corp, the consideration of accessibility and inclusivity should be prioritized. Customers should not endure undue burdens to make a purchase at a Corp location.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and chaired by the opinion editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.