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Bookstore Privatization at SCCCD Fails Students and Faculty

On June 4th, all but two members of the State Center Community College Board voted to bring Follet Higher Education in to oversee bookstore operations. Follet then took over in early July with only one month to prepare the bookstore for the Fall semester. In the rush to privatize the bookstore, the district and Follet seemed to have overlooked crucial details that have created chaos for students and faculty. At the most recent Board of Trustees meeting on September 3rd, Fresno City College Academic President, Karla Kirk, laid out a gamut of issues gathered during the first Academic Senate meeting which included:

• No response from the bookstore when asked about missing books • Courses missing from the shelf • Course sections listed under the wrong instructor • Students who rely on book vouchers being restricted to an inadequately stocked bookstore • Follet staff misinforming students that instructors had not yet ordered the required textbook • Lack of technology infrastructure to properly run the bookstore • No scantrons available for purchase

Students went before the board to lament about the impersonal experiences they’ve had with the Follet bookstore staff as well as the lack of inventory-- which for one student, has derailed her transfer plans and negatively impacted her GPA. Follet and the district have given faculty a completion time of 4-6 weeks out to address the issues—well past the point from which students receive their first letter grade.

Following public comment SCCCD Chancellor, Paul Parnell, stated that the issues could have been addressed sooner had faculty made them known from the start. But as the entity responsible for the management of bookstore operations, shouldn't Follet have already known about these issues, and shouldn't they have been working with the district to resolve them sooner? Furthermore, if the District’s intention was to provide better service to students, shouldn't it have done a better job at planning such a huge undertaking by at the very least anticipating many of the issues that have presented themselves, and with Follet, created a contingency plan to address such issues if and when they arose? Are these oversights really the result of poor planning or are they simply what you get when cost cutting is prioritized over providing quality services students and faculty?

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