Trustees Consider Breaking Up With Follett

Story By: Leilani Bustos, Reporter

The Board of Trustees of the State Center Community College District is considering terminating its contract with Follett Higher Education, Inc. after facing weeks of backlash from district’s faculty and students.

In its monthly Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 2 at Madera Community College, Cheryl Sullivan, vice chancellor of finance led the discussion on the turmoil in the bookstore transitioning from self-operated to privately owned.

“If we think Follett is not stepping up to the table then we would come forward and exercise our rights in the contract and say this [transition] is not satisfactory,” Parnell said, during the meeting. “If they are not going to perform, then we will do that.”

One of the main issues faced throughout the transition was an inability of Follett’s system to accommodate the needs of 30,000 Fresno City College students attempting to use it.

This issue has prompted a new setup for acquiring books and supplies for not only students but faculty specifically.

The trustees had voted a 5-2 vote during their July meeting to enter an agreement with Follet Higher Education Inc. Trustees Magdelina Gomez and Annalissa Perea were the dissenting votes.

Trustee Eric Payne, who originally voted for the privatization of the district bookstores, said that there are certain aspects of the contract that haven’t followed through.

Payne pointed out that the bookstore lacks more than just school supplies.

“Some sort of restitution and helping to make our students whole is very important,” Payne said, “but also some things that were not discussed that I did take notice of in the bookstore was, there was no food supply in stock.”

The board members discussed options, including terminating the district’s contract with Follett altogether.

Sullivan proposed solutions to end the bookstore fiasco, including a user-friendly website that makes it easy for instructors to get all of their necessary course materials.

“It’s just like any time you go to a new website for the first time and you set your own profile and password,” Sullivan said. “You actually just type in your ISBN number and you’re done.”

Follett will send out spreadsheets to all deans and following up with faculty, according to Sullivan.

“After integration happens, they’re going to have a dashboard, and any day, any time they can pull it up and drill down the faculty then I would be able to go in and get [the work] done right there,” Sullivan said.

In a presentation of the contract, a representative of Follett said that student success was their priority. Payne countered that he didn’t see that happening.

Nine weeks into the semester, students and faculty continue to have problems as a result of the transition.

“We’re still following up on individual students with individual problems,” Sullivan reported on the efforts the district is making to correct the various errors. “But I don’t think we’re getting class problems any more.”

Board of Trustees President Deborah Ikeda said, “We’re headed in the right direction.”