UConn Co-op replacement should prioritize students

After a four-month bidding process, a specially designed committee has confirmed their decision to move forward with two outside bidders, Barnes & Noble and Follett, replacing the current UConn Co-op.

According to a March 11 Daily Campus report, University of Connecticut attorney Patrick Nevins sent a letter to the Co-op Board of Directors Chair Timothy Dzurilla to relay the decision.

Nevins cited the need to “choose the final candidate based on which could most closely meet the university’s needs,” implying the Co-op’s proposal did not fulfill the committee’s expectations and criteria. However, the committee must remember to ensure the final candidate can offer the most resources for the students.

The decision cannot be based upon a myopic glance at the bottom line and University finances. Given the limited nature of the budget following more than a $100 million loss for UConn and UConn Health, it is not unexpected that the committee would prefer a candidate who can establish financial stability and numerous resources to aid this venture.

It is important to remember, however, that budget cuts are also affecting students through an incremental tuition increase.

The Co-op board disagreed with the University’s statement, citing their commitment to the needs of the student body. As Nevins stated in his letter, the committee’s choices between Follett and Barnes & Noble “will result in millions of dollars of increased revenue to the university each year.”

The resources of a larger corporation, such as Barnes & Noble, will allow for cost saving measures, though these are not inherently linked with cost savings for students. Once again, the committee seems to be more focused on budgetary concerns of the university than those of the students.

However, statistically speaking, the Co-op has noted a drop in textbook sales as students have consistently voiced concerns regarding the price of textbooks, especially when other avenues offer considerable savings. Though large corporate chains can operate with reduced costs, evidence suggests independent university bookstores may be able to offer more and better quality service to students. The Hartford Courant cited Yale as an example, whose Co-op bookstore was replaced in the late 1990s.

With two candidates left, the committee is fast approaching the announcement of the Co-op’s corporate replacement. While students have come to appreciate many of the current Co-op’s services, the committee must work to ensure student services and needs are put first in the final decision making process. Choosing a new bookstore based solely upon University finances would serve as a disservice to the UConn community.