Bookstore failure to order correct textbooks

Written Question

For President, Provost, or FA President:

I want to know how the university is responding to the dozens of classes affected by the bookstore’s failure this term to order correct textbooks (or any) for Spring Term. Since this is a third party provider what contract compliance measures are being taken to insure this does not recur? What do we tell students who have waited a month for the correct texts?

Answered by Dr. John White, Faculty Association President

Dr. White shared that he had received complaints from faculty over the past month and a half, and he reached out the bookstore manager and their regional person but has not heard back. He confirmed that they have met with a number of chairs to discuss several complex issues. He noted that he understood that going forward the bookstore would be purchasing enough textbooks to cover enrollments, which had previously been an issue as the bookstore was fearful of being able to sell enough texts.

Dr. Karen Patterson, Interim Provost and VP of Academic Affairs added

Dr. Patterson added that a meeting took place to discuss this concern, and she will share a follow-up with FA to share any of the outcomes from that meeting.

Dr. Gordon Rakita, Director of Academic Technology and Interim Associate Vice President for Faculty Development suggested

Dr. Rakita suggested that FA reach out to Tully Burnett (A&F – Business Services) to discuss possible next steps, and Dr. White remarked that Mr. Burnett has been a part of the conversation so far and he will follow up with him, too.

Dr. Georgette Dumont shared her personal experience with bookstore ordering issues and how they affect student learning

Explaining this issue has been ongoing for at least several years. She shared that the bookstore has previously explained this under-purchasing issue (i.e., not purchasing enough for enrolled students) as stemming from their ordering based on a percentage calculation of previous semesters’ purchases for that class. Dr. Dumont added that this business model may work for the bookstore but that it doesn’t align with the university’s model of ensuring students have the materials they need when they need them.

Dr. Marianne Jaffee, Executive Assistant to the Provost and Director of Planning added

Marianne Jaffee added that there has been a number of issues this term, echoing Dr. White’s note that these issues tend to be complex, but that the bookstore is working to add more supports and processes to ensure fewer issues in the face of issues related to COVID and lack of staffing. She reported, too, that a conversation is scheduled to take place with the bookstore to help them understand faculty needs.

Cutting Textbook Costs

January 10, 2019

Questioner: Julie Ingersoll

Posed to: Shari Shuman, Vice President, Administration & Finance

In Religious Studies we have long worked to keep student book costs low by using books available used on Amazon.  This works really well for most of my students (last semester none of my classes was more than $40)  but students who rely on Financial Aid can only use their funds at the bookstore.  Who’s rule is that? With new interest on the part of administration to cut textbook costs, can we change it?

Response by Vice President Shuman:

Students on financial aid have the opportunity to purchase their books from any source. Unless, they choose to use the bookstore, the student has to upfront the cost and then they receive a refund from their financial aid. However, we have worked an arrangement with the Bookstore to provide a line of credit to the student to purchase their books prior to the first day of class and before financial aid is distributed. There is a complex technical integration between the University and the bookstore, which allows the bookstore to know which students will be receiving financial aid. The bookstore then provides a line of credit to the student until financial aid is paid. Further, the bookstore assumes the risk for any uncollected funds under the program. The technical integration, line of credit or the guarantee for risk of loss is not available from Amazon or other book sellers.

The University and the bookstore have long endeavored to find ways to reduce the cost of course materials and continue to do so. Bookstore personnel routinely meet with faculty to discuss ways to reduce course materials costs and identify multiple text formats to provide the greatest flexibility for all students. They would welcome the opportunity to visit and explore ways to assist.