“Eating at the restaurants or cafeterias at Hanyang Plaza have got me wondering about the dynamics between the vendors and the university.” said Park Jeongeun, a Sophomore in the Department of Sports Industry at Hanyang University(HYU). There have been many changes in recent months to the food environment at HYU. For instance, recently Sarangbang(the cafeteria inside the Student Union Building), was outsourced to a large food service company for a Chinese restaurant, which has gone out of business. Meanwhile, the first floor of Hanyang Plaza has been commercialized and now somewhat resembles a food court at a typical department store. There were also recent attempts to outsource the Hanyang Plaza student cafeteria.
Universities have been criticized for focusing more on making profits from the vendors on campus and HYU is no exception. Opponents are concerned that this may lead to excessive commercialization of the university and students in turn may be burdened with unreasonable prices. Thus, some believe that profit making is becoming the university’s number one priority.
Ongoing Commercialization on HYU Campus
There are juice bars, franchise cafes, and a few restaurants at Hanyang Plaza. According to the Korea High Education Research Institute(KHEI), HYU has the second largest number of outside vendors, after Seoul National University, the numbers being 60 and 65 respectively.
Allowing commercial facilities on campus is a move that reorganizes the university space as a center of consumer convenience. Park Jung-ill, a Sophomore in the Department of Advanced Materials Engineering, commented positively about these efforts saying, “Hanyang Plaza restaurants are located conveniently within the campus, and what’s more, there are a variety of different menus to choose from.”
Campus commercialization has been made possible due to the absence of a Korea University Cooperative Federation(KUFC), which is a group composed of entirely students. It plays an important role in creating an appropriate consumer environment on campus. At present, HYU does not have this kind of organization so decisions regarding its consumer environment are unilaterally made by the university without consultation from students.
HYU Increases the Number of Vendors on Campus
On-campus vendors are supposed to provide a 10 to 30 percent discount off their original retail prices to students. “We acknowledge that outsourcing caused a slight increase in the costs of meals. However, the profits from leasing spaces will be used towards providing scholarships and improving student welfare,” said Lee Chul-woo, a head of Committee of Scholarship and Welfare at HYU.
Hanyang Plaza restaurants’ stance is similar to that of the university. One of the restaurants owners of Hanyang Plaza said, “We provide students with a 10 percent discount. We even have additional discounts during exams and the beginning of the semester.” Their top priority is developing new menus and providing a hygienic atmosphere.
Student Welfare in Need of Improvement
Hanyangians are divided over the university's outsourcing. Choi Junwoo, a Sophomore in the Department of Industrial Engineering, said, “I don't really know what the outsourcing problem is. I find the Hanyang Plaza restaurants to be satisfying because they are nearby and have a wide variety of menus and sanitary environment.”
On the other hand, a Sophomore in the Department of Business Administration who wanted to be identified as Yang, said, “With the exception of the speical discount events the restaurants have every now and then, it doesn’t really feel like the Hanyang Plaza restaurants are providing discounted prices to students. To be honest, I think this will widen the income disparity on campus. Take coffee for instance, the prices range from one thousand won to up to four thousand won. This is rather costly if you ask me.”
From General Students Association(GSA), “It is doubtful that all of the on-campus vendors are currently offering the discount as they are supposed to. In addition, the university does not share any information regarding the profits they make off vendors.”
Reaching an Agreement on Campus Facilities
Due to the trend of excessive commercialization, students now have to pay more while they are on campus. Park Jeong-eun, a Sophomore in the Department of Sports Industry, said, “I hope that HYU chooses to include us in future decision making by asking for our opinions through surveys about plans for school facilities. That is the least that they could do.” Whether the university is going too far in using the campus for the benefit of the students or merely for its own profit is something more students should contemplate on.