U of C students oppose privatization of campus bookstore management, survey suggests

As the University of Calgary contemplates the future of its bookstore operations, the Students’ Union (SU) has released a survey showing that 89 per cent of students oppose the privatization of bookstore management operations.

Nearly 2,000 undergrad students responded to the survey between April 20 and May 14 where they were asked to provide feedback on potential changes to the campus bookstore operations and their use of the bookstore.

“Ninety-three per cent of students actually believe that the SU should take over operations for the University of Calgary bookstore,” said SU president Nicole Schmidt.

“Students also chose the campus bookstore being run by private companies as overwhelmingly their most disliked option … students are very concerned about the price of textbooks and other course materials will increase drastically.”

Students’ Union not being considered

The U of C did not make anyone available to CBC News for an interview, but in an email said it’s in the process of reviewing options.

University of Calgary Students’ Union president Nicole Schmidt says the university has not considered the SU as an operator for the bookstore. (University of Calgary’s Students’ Union)

“[Options are being reviewed] taking into consideration feedback we received from our broad campus community during consultations,” it read.

Schmidt said if that was true, the university would have considered the SU.

“We’ve contacted them several times in the past about the idea of the Students’ Union taking over operations for the bookstore,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the university has said that we will not be considered as an operator and they want no further consultation with us on the issue.”

The SU currently runs another bookstore called Bound and Copied, which is a used bookstore on campus. 

“[It is] one of the few student-run used bookstores in the country that makes a profit,” she said.

“The SU is a $20-million organization that runs a family of businesses from a bookstore, to a restaurant, to overseeing other tenants in the Students’ Centre and we feel that we could run the campus bookstore very well.”

Bookstore revenues declining

In a letter posted online in April, the U of C’s vice-president of finance said the bookstore receives no funding from the provincial government, student tuition or student fees.

“While it’s not private, the bookstore operates in the same manner as a private business. It must earn sufficient revenue to cover all operating and capital expenditures,” wrote Linda Dalgetty.

I can assure you, that should we choose a third-party operational model, the retail markup of textbooks will be the same as the current markup.– Linda Dalgetty, UCalgary VP finance

She said that over the last five years, sales revenues have decreased by about eight per cent per year, and is no longer sufficient to fund operating and capital costs.

Bookstore not for sale

She said this plan does not involve the sale of the bookstore, but rather a change to an operational model that uses outside management under university oversight. 

“I can assure you, that should we choose a third-party operational model, the retail markup of textbooks will be the same as the current markup. This would be a binding provision embedded in the legal contract.”

A survey was launched by the U of C to gather public feedback in April, but those results have not been made public. A decision is expected in the coming weeks.

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