What started as a few students standing in solidarity has become one of the most influential components of Georgetown University. However, The Students of Georgetown, Inc. didn’t become the world’s largest student-run, non-profit organization overnight. The company is over 45 years in the making, and our history has been shaped by our relationships, failures, successes, innovation, and, most importantly, our dedication to serving Georgetown students.
Fighting for Students Since Day One
During the heat of the Vietnam War, large-scale May Day protests took place throughout Washington, DC, ending in clashes between protesters and police. Protesters sought refuge from the Metropolitan Police Department by coming to the campus of Georgetown University where, on May 3, 1971, Rev. Robert J. Henle, S.J, the university’s president, authorized the police department to use tear gas to disperse and remove the visitors. However, many students were caught in the middle of the violence and injured.
This prompted then-student body President and Vice President Roger Cochetti and Nancy Kent to create a non-profit organization, The Students of Georgetown, Inc., “to assert and protect the inherent rights of its members [students] and the community.”
Student-administration relationships mellowed with the war’s end, prompting the young non-profit to take up a new form of advocacy: offering low-cost, high-quality goods and services, providing students with hands-on experience in running a business, and funding philanthropic causes in the campus community.
The Corp Opens up for Business
The members of this new organization, which became known around campus as “The Corp,” began selling yogurt and Coca-Cola on Healy Lawn to fund their efforts. Originally called the Food Co-op, this small service soon evolved into Vital Vittles, The Corp’s flagship storefront and only grocery store, in 1974.
In 1977, The Corp began the Corp began Summer Storage, a service that provided storage space for students to leave their belongings during the summer break. Though it closed twice during the 1980s and was redesigned five times, this operations continues today as Corp Storage, which services thousands of students and other members of the greater Georgetown community each year and is available year-round.
While some of our services have remained since the earliest days of our history, The Corp remembers and is proud of all of its defunct services that helped get it off on the ground. These include ventures such as the Book Co-op, Furniture Co-op, Audio Co-op, and Corp Shuttles, which was actually absorbed by the University and became the Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle (GUTS), which operates five bus circuits in the Washington Metropolitan area.
No Taxes, No Problems
Though it is now a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit corporation, this was not always the case for the Students of Georgetown, Inc. The IRS denied the organization tax-exempt status on three separate occasions (1974, 1979, 1980), causing its rent-free use of University space to threaten the University’s own tax-exempt status. As a result, the Georgetown administration began requiring The Corp to pay rent, nearly bankrupting the company and forcing the young Vital Vittles to merge with the Record Co-op into “Audio Vittles.” In 1981, The Corp won tax-exempt status, as well as a check from the IRS for several years’ back taxes.
The Corp Becomes an Entirely Independent Organization
Up until the 1990s, the wide array of Corp services was an extension of the Georgetown University Student Government. In fact, the student body president was also recognized as the Chairman of the Board for the Students of Georgetown, Inc. This close tie made it difficult for The Corp to operate independently from the University’s administration, since its parent organization had a direct connection with the University. This caused a persistent strain to the two organizations’ relationship, prompting The Corp’s board of directors to break from the student government. With this move, The Students of Georgetown, Inc., became a fully independent, autonomous company.
Independence Lights a Fire under The Corp
This new independence sparked The Corp, and the decade following its separation from student government was arguably its most expansive. During this time, The Corp not only grew exponentially, but all of the services introduced during this time still operate today, demonstrating the level of effort put into each of these storefronts and departments.
It started when The Corp won a bid to take control of a small area in the Leavey Center. With this new space, the upper management decided to try something different. A year later, it unveiled its first coffee shop, Uncommon Grounds. The immediate popularity of UG highlighted the demand for coffee on the Georgetown campus, and in 1999, it opened up its second coffee service, MUG, in the Intercultural Center (ICC).
Since 1982, Corp Advertising handled graphic design work for many university clubs. In 1997, however, The Corp closed it and rebranded it as Corp Marketing, which focused on the advertising and promotional needs of The Corp.
With the success of its first two coffee shops, The Corp knew that the student body would be more than happy with another, and so in 2002, it opened up its third in the Lauinger Library. The Midnight MUG, which is found on Lau 2, is there for students who are putting in long hours in the library, as it is open on most nights until 2am.
The Corp had more work to do, though. In 2004, it opened Hoya Snaxa in the breezeway of Southwest Quad. The name for this convenient spot for snacks was actually chosen through a student survey that allowed Hoyas to decide what the store would be called.
The Corp Today
The Corp continued to break even more boundaries with its technology and services as the 21th century came into full force. In 2004, it launched thecorp.org, a project that was taken over by the IT department, which was formed a year later. In 2008, The Corp’s IT and Marketing departments merged to become Corp IT+M, which employs both interpersonal and technical skills to spearhead campaigns and maintain The Corp’s infrastructure.
In 2009, Corp Catering launched, and it continues to cater events both big and small for Georgetown organizations, clubs, and faculty.
In the fall of 2014, The Corp opened its most recent storefront, The Hilltoss, a made-to-order salad and smoothie shop. More than that, “the Toss” became one of the only providers of acai bowls in Washington, D.C., a testament to The Corp’s 40+ year dedication to making the Georgetown experience so special for every student who walks through the front gates.