Since its debut last year, the website Kozmo.com has quickly developed a secure place in the hearts and wallets of Harvard students. Offering free delivery of movies and snacks, Kozmo has a powerful appeal in the apathetic Harvard social scene because it places an evening's entertainment only a few mouse-clicks away. Despite its popularity, Kozmo is running at a loss. To boost profits, the company decided to request liquor licenses to deliver alcohol.
However, this scheme came under fire from officials at several Boston universities, including Harvard. Their ire, coupled with the fact that Harvard owns the Allston warehouse that Kozmo operates out of, led Kozmo to recently withdraw its request for a liquor license. Instead of making a reasonable effort to compromise, the University inappropriately exerted its influence to squash private enterprise.
It is understandable that administrators would worry that alcohol delivery might increase underage drinking. But Kozmo countered with a set of proposals to minimize the risk that alcohol would be sold to underage students. These proposals, when applied to Harvard students, would include carding students who pick up the deliveries, banning deliveries to first-year housing, restricting hours and possibly days when beer could be delivered and setting a limit on the amount of alcohol which could be delivered in a given time period. These are reasonable concessions and would have done much to address the University's concerns about alcohol delivery.
Police and University officials responded that couriers would be less reliable in carding students. But any reasonable business like Kozmo would be especially vigilant in training its couriers in proper carding procedure, especially if the business was threatened with the possibility of losing its license. Rather than working with the company to develop a reasonable compromise, Harvard and other Boston colleges told Kozmo to drop the idea altogether.
Even in a city of blue laws, Harvard seems to be especially vigorous in keeping the gifts of Dionysius out of its formerly ivy-clad walls. But what is troubling is not the University's strict stance toward college drinking--nationally, there has dramatic upswing in concern over alcohol on campus--but that the University can wield so much influence over private commerce in the community. Harvard's staunch refusal to compromise and bullying tactics shut down what was otherwise a sound business proposal that would serve legal-age residents in Cambridge and Boston. If the University was a private business, its actions would be considered monopolistic.
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