Company taking reins at SFSU nonprofit bookstore 

click to enlarge Follet Higher Education Group said it might lower SFSU textbook prices. - SF EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • SF Examiner file photo
  • Follet Higher Education Group said it might lower SFSU textbook prices.

A for-profit company will now run the bookstore at San Francisco State University, replacing the nonprofit that had managed the shop since 1954.

Officials say the arrangement will benefit students and the university itself, while hundreds of students and faculty say they will boycott what they see as a move toward the commercialization of college life.

The directors of University Corp., a nonprofit school affiliate that manages campus services, voted June 5 to award a five-year contract to Follett Higher Education Group, an Illinois-based company that manages more than 900 campus bookstores nationwide.

On July 1, Follett will take over from Franciscan Shops, the nonprofit that has managed the store since 1954. University spokeswoman Ellen Griffin said financial details of the agreement were not available.

University Corp. had issued a request for proposals earlier in February. Follett was one of three bidders, along with Franciscan Shops and Barnes & Noble.

Elio DiStaola, Follett’s director of campus relations, said all current full-time employees would be able to keep their jobs and the store’s name would not change from SFSU Bookstore.

“It’s the campus store,” DiStaola said. “It belongs to the university and the students and faculty.”

Husam Erciyes, director of marketing for Franciscan Shops, said he and his colleagues were surprised by the decision. In recent years, as the costs of textbooks have soared, the bookstore has introduced a textbook rental plan that Erciyes said saved students more than $1 million last year. He said he was skeptical that a for-profit company would do the same.

“They have to make a certain amount of money every year to satisfy their stakeholders,” he said.

DiStaola said Follett offered the largest textbook rental program in the country, along with digital textbooks on a variety of platforms. Being larger, Follett also has more buying power, he said, so it will be able to negotiate better deals with publishers.

But while university officials said Follett would save students money, some were not impressed.

“We were very disappointed,” said Terence Yancey, a member of Occupy SFSU, which made the bookstore one of the main focuses of its anti-corporate protests during the spring semester.

“The nonprofit independent bookstore we had, while it’s not perfect, it’s a lot easier for students to have input,” he said.

Yancey said Occupy SFSU had collected pledges from more than 1,000 students and faculty to boycott a for-profit bookstore.

acrawford@sfexaminer.com

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Amy Crawford

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