SU President Frank Finley and VP Operations and Finance Mohammad Ali met with university administration yesterday evening on the topic of the privatization of the campus bookstore.
Going into the meeting, the SU was concerned about increased costs on students not only for textbooks but for supplies and apparel that are sold at the bookstore. In addition, programs like the Book Loan Program and even student ability to shop around to find the best price on textbooks could be at risk.
The university informed the SU that they are considering all options. However, when asked about considering a partnership with the SU or allowing the SU to run the bookstore itself, university administration said they would not consider this option, despite the SU successfully running Bound & Copied and several other Mac Hall businesses.
However, the SU did receive several important verbal commitments from the university:
- Students will not be forced to purchase from the bookstore
- Students will be able to purchase second-hand books from Bound & Copied or elsewhere
- The Book Loan Program and the Book Buyback Program will be maintained
- Costs for other materials sold at the bookstore will not rise unreasonably
The university has previously committed to not allow textbook markups to increase and will include that in any contract signed with Follett or another vendor.
While this is positive, it remains unclear how the university would enforce these commitments and it’s worth asking why this hasn’t occurred at other institutions with Follett bookstores. In many cases, other institutions realize very quickly that making a deal with Follett is a mistake and try to exit the contract. By this point, however, the damage is done.
It still remains unclear at this point what will happen to current bookstore staff, including student employees who work there. This is concerning.
The university is planning to survey students and the university community. The university did not commit to share the survey results with the SU or make them public. In order to understand student concerns better, the SU will be putting out a survey on the bookstore as soon as possible.
The SU will continue to hold the university to account and press the university to demonstrate the benefit to the institution but also, more importantly, how students will benefit from any agreement with Follett or another provider.