Three employees of Follett Higher Education Group presented their case on why the company should take charge of operating the SFSU bookstore in an open meeting yesterday afternoon.
Follett, Barnes & Noble and Franciscan Shops have all submitted proposals in response to the SF State University Corporation’s request for outside companies to be interviewed to manage the bookstore. The campus Bookstore has been managed by the nonprofit Franciscan Shops since 1954.
Follet’s open forum was the first of four presentations made by each of these groups intended to explain how they would operate the SFSU Bookstore respectively.
Several members of the audience were concerned whether or not Follett would be open to the same kind of feedback from the campus community, but Follet’s Senior Vice President of Retail Operations Robert Scholl asserted that would not be the case.
“This store here would reflect the culture of this campus,” said Scholl. “It wouldn’t reflect Follett at all.”
According to Robert Scholl, the company would implement a bookstore advisory committee, welcoming faculty, students, staff, administration, and alumni to provide feedback and ensure that the bookstore continues to cater to the community.
Follett noted their text rental program that features between 12,000 and 15,000 titles, including textbooks and other print titles. Instructors are able to request specific titles that are not currently part of the program, and every school partnered with Follett has access to each title.
The rental price of each title is about half of the original price, which would save SF State students close to $1 million per year according to Patrick Usher, Vice President of Marketing in North America at Follett.
Follett also provides incentive programs for students. For example, the first department to submit book orders on time receives textbook scholarships for students.
They also plan to introduce Café Scribe to SF State, an e-reader program that allows users to highlight text, auto-summarize highlighted text, and share notes with other students.
Follett also stated that they would retain every member of the existing bookstore staff. On average, 95% of employees that transition into working for Follett continue to work there for more than a year, according to Scholl.
The presenters dedicated the last 20 minutes of the presentation to answering questions from the audience. During this time, presenters encountered resistance from several audience members.
“This attempt to undermine and discredit San Francisco State’s values and commitment to community building and social justice only increases by distrust toward the university’s bureaucratically structured administration,” said Criminal Justice major Lalo Gonzalez.
Usher addressed the resistance by ensuring that Follett’s presence on campus would be a financial gain to SF State, specifically through scholarship programs, available jobs and other developments.