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Privatizing the University of Calgary bookstore is bad news all around

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It will hurt students, cost jobs and damage the university’s business reputation

The University of Calgary claims: “It’s the entrepreneurial university.”

Its latest move, to hand over the much treasured university bookstore to a private, for-profit, U.S.-owned corporation proves the university’s leaders don’t understand basic business or follow the lessons taught in their own business classes.

In 2019, the last full year before the COVID-19 pandemic, the bookstore earned significant revenue for the university. Despite being a U of C operation and being located in university premises, the bookstore paid over $400,000 that year in rent alone—on top of credible reports that it also earned hundreds of thousands more for the university through sales.

This was achieved after bookstore staff, including current managers, worked hard to turn around the financial operations, which had been left in a mess by previous management. They did this without adding to the price of books, which are sold on a cost-neutral basis to keep them affordable for students.

Their reward for this success, for creating a revenue stream for the university, would be to lose their jobs.

They don’t teach this in business school

The U of C is facing cuts in revenue thanks to the Alberta government’s recent budgets.

It’s not good business to give away revenue.

The U of C’s plan to hand over the bookstore to the U.S. owned company Follett would be a single-source transaction. There seems to have been no attempt to seek other bids.

It’s not good business schools to assume that single-source contracts get you the best offers.

The U of C plan would give a private, for-profit corporation a monopoly. Corporate monopolies don’t lead to better prices.

The U of C move to sell the bookstore is just bad business. If a university that claims to be a leader in business learning can’t grasp the basic business concepts taught in its own courses, what will this do to the university’s reputation?

Never damage your brand is another business lesson the university leaders seem to have missed.

What does this privatization mean for workers and students?

It means the loss of jobs for hard-working, experienced and loyal staff. It means students will not have the support of those staff.

It also will likely mean higher costs for students, because corporations need to earn profit and that profit has to come from someone.

With students already facing soaring tuition rates, cuts to programs and supports and increased interest rates for student loans, this is one more hit that many will be unable to afford. Many will seek to leave Calgary and Alberta to study somewhere where learning costs less.

Currently, the bookstore employs university students so they can help pay for their education. This opportunity may be lost.

Privatization could also lead to the loss of the book-loan and sponsored-student programs.

It could mean the loss of the medical bookstore in the Cummings School of Medicine.

Privatization of the bookstore could pave the way for the university to outsource several other departments, with the loss of many more jobs and more cuts to supports for students.

What does this mean for the community?

Privatizing the bookstore means that money will be taken out of Calgary and go to Follet’s U.S. parent company.

At a time when Albertans are being urged to shop local to support the community through the pandemic, the U of C will be going the other direction and hurting the community.

It’s time to fight back

Privatizing the University of Calgary is bad for the university, it’s bad for the community, it’s bad for students and it’s bad for workers. The only winner will be the private corporation that will squeeze money out of Calgarians and send it to its U.S. owners.

Please sign this petition calling for an immediate halt the selling off of the campus and the privatization of the bookstore.

To those who have already signed other petitions on this issue, please sign this as well. We want to know who you are so we can keep you informed of this campaign to save advanced education in Alberta. Together, we can win this fight.