After 40 years of service, the UConn Co-op Bookstore is going to close, said Co-op President Bill Simpson.
A four-month bid process to decide the future operator of the University of Connecticut’s ten bookstores is entering its final phase. Barnes & Noble and Follett are remaining contenders, Simpson said. The Co-op is not.
“We received word earlier today that we did not make the final cut. Barnes & Noble and Follett are the remaining two bidders, and we are no longer being considered as a proposer,” Simpson said.
A letter sent from UConn Attorney Patrick Nevins to Co-op Board of Directors Chair Timothy Dzurilla confirmed this. UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz provided the letter.
“After careful consideration, the committee recommended that the university enter into negotiations with Follett and Barnes & Noble and choose the final candidate based on which could most closely meet the university's needs and succeed the Co-op as the operator of UConn's bookstores,” Nevins wrote.
Nevins continued by saying that this was “not an easy decision for the committee,” particularly considering the Co-op's history and place in the community.
“Follett and Barnes & Noble have a stellar record of providing high-quality services in campus,” Nevins wrote.
Nevins said both companies offer affordable programs in textbook rentals and price-matching. He added that the university had doubts about the Co-op’s ability to fulfill the promises of its proposal and financial stability in the long term, the latter of which was the original reason that the bookstores were put up to bid.
“The Co-op has limited resources to achieve this ambitious transformation and has a history of unfulfilled promises…On the whole, the Co-op’s contention that it could reverse years of decline virtually overnight while making significant new investments and creating costly new programs does not appear to be realistic” Nevins wrote.
Simpson disagreed and said he was disappointed with the outcome.
“We’re out of the running, so we’re all certainly disappointed,” Simpson said. “We feel we were the best choice for the students and that we put the students first in our bid proposal."
“One of the things they said that was against us was that our bid was not as financially enumerating as were the other bids,” Simpson continued. “That’s because we didn’t give all of our money to the university. We gave a portion of it to the students. We feel that since students pay for the vast majority of what happens at the bookstore that students ought to benefit from it as well, but that’s apparently not the way the university is dealing with it.”
In his letter, Nevins mentioned the major state budget cuts faced by UConn in recent years, which he said amounted to “a loss of more than $100 million” for UConn and UConn Health.
“The recommendation of Follett and Barnes & Noble will result in millions of dollars in increased revenue to the university each year. The university has made the decision to direct the entirety of this new revenue to financial aid and student support—which is under considerable strain in an era of increasingly scarce resources,” Nevins wrote.
Simpson expressed concerns about the process.
“The process has been unusual in our opinion,” Simpson said. “There have been several points that have been not typical practices in bid processes along the way. I don’t really want to get into that at this stage. It’s just been unusual ways of doing things.”
Co-op Board of Directors Chair Timothy Dzurilla declined to offer an extended comment.
“I don’t have much to say now,” Dzurilla said. “I want to take a couple days to let peoples’ emotions settle down before we discuss next steps.”
The university is expected to arrive at a final decision for the new bookstore operator at the next Board of Trustees meeting on March 31, Simpson said.
In a previous interview two weeks ago, Simpson said the transition from the Co-op to the new operator could occur as early as this June, but the details on that are not yet entirely clear.
Christopher McDermott is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.