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Saturday, December 10, 2022

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Some students still await books


Up to 1,500 students who took out book loans may not have all of their books into the third week of the semester because Barnes & Noble does not stock all of the required texts.

This is the first semester the book loan program limits students to using only the campus Barnes & Noble to get their books.

While Barnes & Noble may not have all of the required textbooks in stock, other retailers such as The College Store have them on their shelves.

Corporate communications junior Tomiya Courtney does not have the books for two of her classes and has been told by a Barnes & Noble employee that they should arrive the third week of the semester.

‘There was nothing in PeopleSoft when you sign up for the book loan telling you it can only be used at the campus bookstore,’ Courtney said. ‘They just gave you the loan without any disclosures.’

Aside from students not being informed of the change in policy, neither was The College Store.

When asked about the new policy, The College Store manager Matthew Bublitz said the University never notified him, so he thought it was a rumor.

After some research, he found the University changed the policy, leaving him in the dark.

‘I was told there is a new interface program that dealt directly with Barnes & Noble, and you’re not a part of the program,’ Bublitz said.

Bublitz offered to upgrade his equipment and purchase new software to continue participating in the book loan program, but said the University would not consider it.

He estimates his revenue loss is around $160,000 to $200,000 from an estimated 400 to 500 students.

UH Director of Student Financial Services Gene Gillis said it was a matter of weighing the cost-to-benefit ratio.

‘The cost benefits are just not there (simply) because the 150 students might not like it,’ Gillis said. ‘We can’t be all things to all people.’

According to Gillis, the decision to give Barnes & Noble exclusive rights to student book loan funds was made by a committee, which did not include student representation.

Gillis was unable to produce a list of committee members and said he cannot recall who initially called these meetings or who invited him to join the discussions.

Student Government Association President Kenneth Fomunung said SGA was not included in the decision-making process.

‘My first informant was The Daily Cougar,’ Fomunung said. ‘This was not something that came our way, which is in it of itself another problem.’

Fomunung does not think that limiting competition and student choices is in the University’s best interest.

‘We’re moving in the wrong direction as far as I’m concerned,’ Fomunung said. ‘If anything we should be moving toward the book loans being accepted at more places.’

While students were not represented at these policy talks, Barnes & Noble was included.

‘I believe the committee was comprised of representatives from Student Financial Services, Barnes & Noble, University Services and the office of Scholarships & Financial Aid,’ said Business Services Director, Esmeralda Valdez.

The exclusion of students representing from the policy talks seems to contradict one of the key principles expressed by UH President Renu Khator.

‘Our first priority is the success of students,’ Khator said in her inaugural speech last November. ‘We are first and foremost a place where learning is as natural as reading, where discovery is happening every day.’

Course materials are essential to student success.

‘Most (students) who choose to get a book loan need the book right now,’ Valdez said.

To offset the delays and continue to take care of UH students, The College Store has offered a 30-day payment deferment. Students may pick up the books they need and payment is not due until Sept. 24, allowing time for financial aid to arrive and putting books in the hands of students faster.

Barnes & Noble bookstore manager Felix Robinson and Vice President of University Services Emily Messa could not be reached for comment.


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