Lola Gayles is Ready to Knock it Out of the Park, ‘But I Don’t Have a Bat’


Photo by: Hannah Lanier

Lola Gayles had a 3.0 before Follett Higher Education acquired the student bookstore. A faulty code and a missing textbook later, she found herself unable to pass her summer classes, putting her dream of taking over a transition house into jeopardy, Sept. 23, 2019.

Story By: Kris Hall, Reporter

Until the summer of 2019, Lola Gayles was marching steadily to achieve her goals at FCC.

With a double major in drug and alcohol abuse counseling and social work, she was taking all the right classes. Her tentative graduation date was Aug. 14, 2020.

That was before the bookstore privatized.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that the bookstore don’t have no empathy at all,” she said. “For them to blatantly look me in my face while I’m standing there crying and rub my back, and then tell me they don’t remember me? They don’t care.”

Because of the bookstore’s failure to provide the tools required for her classes, her graduation date is now uncertain and in jeopardy of being pushed back even further. Despite doing everything she can to right the wrongs done to her, she has received no reparations from anyone.

The FCC bookstore was officially privatized in July, after the board of trustees voted 5-2 to give the responsibility of managing and maintaining the bookstore to Follett Higher Education, Inc.

Gayles said the bookstore was closed for a week. On the day the bookstore was supposed to reopen, Gayles said, “It was like that commercial for Mervyns. I was waiting like ‘Open! Open! Open!’”

She couldn’t get her supplies elsewhere because she is an EOPS student, and her materials are purchased with vouchers, which can only be used at the college bookstore.

She was at the mercy of Follett.

“It was bad enough that this happened,” said Gayles, “but now what do I do? I still have invalid book codes, and I still have an F that I shouldn’t have.”

Gayles’ books for her summer classes were not available until September, and as a result, she failed her class. She said the district did not take into consideration the harm that new management at the bookstore could have on students.

Originally a 3.0 GPA student, Gayles is sitting with an F on her transcripts. She hopes faculty can change her F to an incomplete and allow her to make up the work.

Brian Baker, the teacher for the online computer technology summer class, kept the grade from being finalized as long as he could to allow her to make up the work. But the “MyITLab” she needed wasn’t available until September, and grades had to be turned in.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do now,” she said. “I had to drop my geography class on the very last day this semester because I didn’t have the book for that class either.”

On top of that, her Communications 2 class’ access code for the textbook was the wrong code, and is nonrefundable.

Gayles was born, raised and works in Stockton, California. She is constantly traveling between school in Fresno and work in Stockton, but because of her finances, traveling is going to get tricky.

She resorted to pulling money she had set aside for her car registration and using it to pay for her other summer class materials.

“It snowballed for me with having to dip into my car registrations,” she said. She says she is now worried about losing financial aid because of the drop in her grade point average, as well as her personal financial debt to the bookstore.

“Now I’m not driving my car because I don’t have my tags, nor do I have my books,” she said.

She works at Circle C Ranch Group Homes, and before she came to FCC, she began to worry about the boys that were aging out of the group homes.

“The kids turning 18 have nowhere else to go,” she said. “One day, I happened to be there when one of the boys got dropped off at a shelter, and it bothered me. Doesn’t that put them more at risk?”

Her work is launching a transitional housing program for aged out young adults, ages 18-21. Gayles saw an opportunity, but in order to qualify, she needs a degree specializing in drug and alcohol abuse to help the kids in the program.

“Either their parents were on something or the boys themselves were having trouble,” she said. “This would be the opportunity of a lifetime for me, but now I’m off track completely.”

Gayles took a stand and gave a moving speech before the Board of Trustees at their Sept. 3 meeting about the struggles she was facing because of the bookstore debacle and because of Follett.

Gayles said she has received no redress from the district, much less anything from the bookstore. If she is forced to retake the class to replace the F on her transcript, her graduation date will be pushed back as well.

Despite her dire situation, Gayles knows that she is not alone. Other students are in the same situation.

“Keep saying something. You can’t silently sit in the corner and say, ‘Aww man, my books,’” she said. “If it would have been a hundred other students with me, it would have made a difference.”

She waited for the bookstore to receive her required books, until the last day to drop classes, but again Follett was incapable of supplying her the required materials. Gayles says she is ready to do the work but the work is just outside of her reach.

She is a dedicated student, knows the ins and outs of each of her four classes—every assignment and their scored weight based on the syllabuses. She knows exactly what it will take to pass every class required of her and she has the energy to pull it off.

Now her academic career and home life is hinged on a debt to the bookstore of just $17.