The 2015-2016 academic year will be the last for the University of Connecticut’s Co-op Bookstore. By June 1, Barnes & Noble will take over all of UConn’s bookstores throughout the state.
UConn announced on March 11 that it would be dropping the bookstore. After months of campaigns and debate, the decision was painful for many.
“When I got the email, it felt like a slap in the face. It was abrupt. It felt like we put in a lot of effort, and it hurt a little bit,” said David Anzini, a junior marketing major and vice chair of the UConn Co-op Bookstore.
The Co-op campaign went statewide. A “Save the Co-op” online petition gained 6,085 signatures, according to change.org. The Hartford Courant published opinions from UConn professor Robert M. Thorson and Suzy Staubach, former General Books Division manager of the Co-op, defending the bookstore. The Courant’s editorial board, however, supported ending it.
Two state legislators, Sen. Mae Flexer (D-Killingly) and Rep. Gregg Haddad (D-Mansfield) issued a joint statement expressing “disappointment” at the university’s decision.
UConn’s bookstore selection committee said it had serious doubts about the Co-op’s ability to stay financially viable and fulfill the promises it made in its proposal. The student representative on the committee, Eliza Conrad, wrote a letter to the Courant explaining her decision.
“The Co-op's proposal to the committee was made by nice, well-intentioned, passionate people making their best effort,” Conrad wrote. “But when a key part of your pitch in a competitive process is a promise to do better if given another chance — things are not going well.”
Conrad said parts of the Co-op’s presentation would “not have received an A in any of my business classes.” She added that she couldn’t support them, in part, because of this.
Over the next 18 months, Barnes & Noble will make significant changes to the flagship bookstore on Hillside Road in Storrs as well as to the other UConn bookstore locations throughout the state, Herbst wrote.
“No bookstore location will close for any significant period of time, so service to each of our campus communities will not be interrupted,” Herbst wrote.
Herbst said that the new operator will bring in revenue and promised that her administration would devote the money to financial aid and student services.
“This is especially welcome in an era that has seen frequent shortfalls and cuts to UConn’s state funding,” Herbst said. “This revenue is not theoretical; it is a certainty thanks to the contractually guaranteed minimums we have built into the contract.
Barns & Noble agreed to hire the staff from the UConn Co-op Bookstore after it closes at their current salary levels, according to UConn Today. It will also host at least 100 community events each year.
The Co-op was a student-run organization; its board was required to have a voting majority of students.
“The Co-op was a voice for students on campus,” Anzini said. “It wasn’t their main voice, but it was one of many. Now what they can turn to is USG and their Board of Trustees’ undergraduate representative. They need to turn to them because that’s who will represent their interests across campus.”
Conrad wrote that she believe her decision was the best for UConn.
“Follett and Barnes and Noble run hundreds of campus bookstores around the nation and either would bring sophisticated, high-quality service to UConn. I would not support this decision if I were not completely confident that it is the right choice for students,” Conrad wrote.
Time will tell how students and the community react to the new store, but Barnes & Noble will be the bookstore greeting the incoming class of 2020.
Chris McDermott is the news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.