Questions about SFSU Bookstore's future management still unanswered

There has been no shortage of controversy surrounding the impending change of management for the SFSU Bookstore, and even with the open forums finished, the decision may be quite a long time coming.

While University Corporation is aware of concerns from both students and faculty surrounding the chances of Follett Corporation or Barnes & Noble taking over as for-profit corporations, UCorp chief operating and financial officer Agnes Wong-Nickerson said the decision is left to the review panel.

“The panel will review the information presented by each proposer, evaluate feedback received and obtain any additional information needed in order to fully evaluate the proposals,” said Nickerson.
Nickerson, who is also the SF State associate vice president of administration and finance, said that whether Franciscan Shops retains management, changes outlined in the selected corporation’s proposal will most likely be initiated in the coming semester. The only factor that would change this tentative date is the Bookstore panel running past its tentative deadline to select a proposal.

“The target time frame was Summer 2012 in order to be prepared for the Fall 2012 semester,” she said. “That would be dependent on how long it takes to complete a thorough review of the proposal responses.”

Rumors surfaced two weeks ago suggesting that Barnes & Noble had already begun negotiations to take over the Bookstore management before the open forums had finished April 12. Nickerson dismissed the claim.

“We are in the middle of the evaluation process,” she said. “It is too early to have a selected vendor.”

In the course of the forums, audience members expressed concern over why the request for proposals were sent out in the first place. Student members of Occupy SFSU made appearances at all three forums, voicing their concerns about the potential of either Follett Corporation or Barnes & Noble taking over as for-profit businesses.

“We certainly did not expect support from Occupy SFSU,” said Robert Strong, CEO of Franciscan Shops and  general manager of the Bookstore. “However, we are grateful for expressions of support from any groups and have been impressed and encouraged by the large support from all corners of campus.”

The activist group has anticipated the possibility of a for-profit corporation being selected and has circulated a petition against it.

They have also facilitated two teach-ins in the quad to inform students about the situation and brainstorm tactics to keep SFSU Bookstore a nonprofit entity.

“I find (UCorp’s) tactic of saying that the (Request for Proposal) was sent out to kind of see what was out there and get cheaper textbooks really insulting,” said Kaitlin Murphy, a member of Occupy SFSU. “Franciscan Shops has been a completely innovative source and we can’t be bought over with these lovely distractions from corporations.”

In an effort to increase student awareness, Occupy SFSU is currently meeting in the quad every day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to encourage students to sign the petition and create discussion about the pros and cons of the potential of a corporation taking over management.

“This is not an empty threat,” 23-year-old Occupy member and criminal justice major Lalo Gonzalez said. “We are building resources and branching out to CFA in order to build the bridge between students and faculty to fight this issue, something that hasn’t happened in a long time. We are rebuilding old tactics from when Barnes & Noble originally tried to take over management in 1990.”

Despite this opposition, the review panel will meet this week to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each proposal.

Nickerson said that while the goal is to finish reviewing proposals before the end of the semester, they will use additional time as needed to ensure a careful and thorough review.