The Bookstore With No Books


Photo by: Tommy Tribble

The student bookstore was privatized in July, and six weeks into an 18 week semester some students still don’t have their books. Photo illustration by Tommy Tribble.

Our big story this issue is about the bookstore–specifically its privatization, which took place in July when the State Center Community College District sold the store to Follett. Follett took over managing, staffing, everything.

We can argue about the merits of privatization, about capitalism and driving a profit, and about wasteful spending and government bureaucracy. We could run pro-cons or ask the campus if they’re divided on the issue.

We could certainly argue.

But isn’t it enough that the shelves are empty? Isn’t it enough that students can’t get their materials?

In our efforts to report the feature, we interviewed a number of administrators, faculty, and students across this campus. Many weren’t willing to speak with us on the record because doing so would make the district look bad.

But the truth is that the district already looks bad.

The district looks underprepared for the ramifications of a decision that they made, on a timetable that they approved. We wish more administrators felt they could stand by their quotes, but we are grateful for the information they provided.

But the information was often contradictory. We heard that the prior bookstore was both profitable and a waste, that this privatization was in talks for years and also that it was rushed through.

We expect this transition will smooth over with time. Follett will undoubtedly get better at selling books on our campus. Teachers will actually get the textbooks they ordered, and students will be able to buy them.

Those books will still be wildly overpriced, but per the Follett contract, students are projected to save money over time.

But fall 2019 cannot be undone. Students have suffered and they have seen their grades drop. And worse, it’s the most vulnerable students who have no choice but to shop at the bookstore. EOPs and CalWorks waivers are only usable at the student bookstore.

A single wasted semester has an incalculable effect on any number of students. It is impossible to quantify and impossible to know how impactful Follett’s hasty, blundering transition has been on this campus.

We hope the remaining six years of this contract are easier. We hope that in the years to come, the bookstore becomes a place where students can buy books. Again.