Editorial: BU Bookstore should reconsider contract

If you read Daniel C. Houston’s story Wed. on tensions between The UBS Bookstore and the Baylor Bookstore, you were probably left with some unanswered questions. We on the editorial board were.

The UBS Bookstore is blocked by eFollett, who works with the Baylor Bookstore, from seeing the university bookstore’s website.

The Baylor Bookstore has defended this because of a contract Follett has with Baylor, but UBS says it would be able to provide better prices and services if it had the same access to professors’ book lists as the Baylor Bookstore.

Currently, only the Baylor Bookstore has access to the list of required books professors provide to Baylor. By the time UBS compiles its own list before each semester, book publishers have already sold many of their used copies of books, and UBS must purchase a greater quantity of new books that cost more for students.

Even with all the complications, UBS still has lower prices on many books. This discrepancy suggests the university has a contract that needs to be re-evaluated.

If UBS continues to have lower prices than the Baylor Bookstore without the benefits of the contract, it would seem that contract is preventing the Baylor Bookstore from having the lowest prices.

If the contract does not help keep prices low for the Baylor Bookstore, what purpose does it serve? If it is keeping costs low for the Baylor Bookstore, why aren’t these discounts being passed along to students?

Baylor, as an educational institution, needs to be looking out for the interests of its students, not those of a bookstore.

No one seems to be denying the fact that the Baylor Bookstore has a competitive advantage over UBS. They have a contract with the school; it is their choice how they take advantage of it. This, however, does not explain why prices at the Baylor Bookstore are often higher then those at UBS or why the Baylor Bookstore often has inexcusable shortages.

There are possibly valid reasons for why these competitive advantages seem to be in direct contrast with the average student’s experience at the bookstore. Perhaps there are hidden costs to the store that reasonably justify the high prices.

From our viewpoint, however, it seems the Baylor Bookstore is taking advantage of the students.

Walking from Penland Hall to Eighth Street with several large textbooks is much more inconvenient than walking across the street to the Baylor Bookstore. If the Baylor Bookstore is designed to serve these same students and has a contract ostensibly designed to further that goal, how is it that an off-campus bookstore is the one more often worth visiting?

Whether or not eFollett chooses to block UBS from accessing its website is its decision – we lean toward being against it (while understanding the textbook company’s reasoning) – but to block the site in order to take advantage of students is unacceptable.

Americans value competition between businesses because these competitions traditionally lower prices — this situation smacks more of cheating than competing.

If the university’s contracts do not serve the students or faculty, then such contracts need to be re-evaluated. The Baylor Bookstore’s system appears to be broken. Students and professors alike are fed up with short supply and high prices, and perhaps making the Baylor Bookstore sweat a little would yield better service.

In conclusion, we acknowledge there may not be simple answers to these questions. This does not excuse the exploitation of students’ budgets, however.

We call upon the bookstore to reevaluate the contract and its benefit to both students and the bookstore itself.