Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

“No definitives” in potential bookstore privatization

Photo Credit: Julia Bowman

The Whitman College bookstore has been experiencing financial difficulties within the past few years. In an attempt to better this financial situation, the administration is discussing the option putting out a bid on the store in order to privatize it.

Douglas Carlsen, director of the bookstore, said that keeping such an option open is logical for the administration.

“It is the duty of the administration to ensure the financial health of the college. In doing so, they explore options to determine what is best for the college as a whole,” he said.

However, he does not think that talking about leasing the bookstore: for instance, to a company such as Barnes and Noble, which operates over 600 college bookstores: means anything certain.

“It’s these bigger companies’ job to talk with colleges and universities, but not every institution that speaks with them ends up being leased,” he said. “This dialogue happens on some college or university campus, somewhere in the country, nearly every week. When each can meet the needs of the other, the bookstore is taken over. Until then, it is all talk.”

Though Carlsen sees the purpose in keeping the option of privatization, he says that he would be “disappointed” if the bookstore were to get leased.

“After getting leased, the driving force behind the bookstore would be profit. That’s not to say that such an business would not serve the needs of the college, simply that it would strive to make profit first.”

He believes that the current bookstore has a different motivation.

“An institutionally-owned bookstore is concerned with profit, but also concerned equally with service to the college,” he said.

John Loranger, vice president of ASWC and chair of the student affairs committee, agrees that privatization is not ideal.

“Everyone involved would prefer an in-house solution to the financial problem,” Loranger said.

He is unsure that privatization is actually a solution.

“It is too early to tell whether outsourcing would improve the bookstore’s financial situation, but it’s hard to imagine it without the deficit it’s currently running,” he said.

Douglas was not immediately able to provide a statistic on the current deficit.

Loranger brings up another question about privatization.

“One of the most important questions is whether or not this will make textbooks cost more for students,” he said. “I don’t necessarily think they will, but this is something we absolutely need to find out first.”

Loranger assures that students will be able to participate in discussion if it does come down to placing a bid on the store.

“If a decision is made during the budgeting process in February to put out a bid, students will be sitting on the committee that chooses the company,” he said.

Though both Carlsen and Loranger stress the importance of considering options, neither is convinced that privatization will be pursued. And even if the administration were to put a bid on the bookstore, there is no guarantee that any company would accept it.

“Something I’ve learned about this job is that there are no definitives, just many variables,” said Carlsen.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *