For a deal that’s been over a year in-the-making, one would think that what Stony Brook students were left with at the start of the semester would be less than broken.
In a bizarre move, a special FSA committee was responsible for turning the campus bookstore into a glorified gift shop, sending the rest of us scurrying and asking one question: Where the hell did the books go?
In an effort to save a-million-and-a-half-dollars, Executive Director of FSA Kevin Kelly implemented the decision reached by this special committee to eliminate an already functioning bookstore, to save students 18 percent on textbooks, in a blood-pact with Amazon. Kelly mentioned in an executive meeting that a list of members who are on that committee can be found on FSA’s website. However, a list that would show such detail is nowhere to be found. The Board of Directors are named, but they’re not explicitly grouped into a “committee.”
Instead, you find an assortment of what committees FSA has, what they do and how many people each should consist of. There is nothing about who was involved in a deal that wasn’t brought upon the University Senate.
Jonathan Sanders, professor of journalism and member of the senate, was never consulted on it either.
“If you look closely at this thing, it shows the high-handed way this administration does things, that the senate was never consulted after the fact,” said Sanders. He doesn’t know if this is a beneficial move in terms of “intellectual income” earning, adding that “we have regulations about experimentation here with medical things about not using students as guinea pigs – but yet, what do they use in this economic book-getting thing as guinea pigs?”
Only three senators knew of this deal, one being Dr. Norman Goodman, who tells me that “the discussions didn’t have to go before the senate. FSA is a separate organization.” Goodman, along with two others, are the senate representatives on the FSA board. “We’re there to represent the senate’s interests,” he said.
Still, this doesn’t change the fact that students already have issues with money, like those on financial aid, or who receive scholarships. Now those same people have no easy access to acquiring much needed course materials? The two mass-emails sent out over the summer notifying students about the Amazon switch does not indicate what to do or who to talk to if you pay for books with financial aid. None of those answers appear on the FAQ section of the Stony Brook/Amazon site, and in typical non-customer service fashion, any inquiries you do have are handled by Amazon.
Last year, there were 15,714 undergrads, and 35% of them – or 5,503 – received some sort of aid.
However many people use financial aid to pay for books, out of those 5,503 students, are affected by this.
The site isn’t set up for this. Students on TAP have to pay with their own credit cards and get reimbursed later – something also missing in those initial emails – and if you don’t have enough money to get your books, what do you do?
“I’ve had freshman come up to me asking for help, but I can’t,” said biology major Stephanie Falisi. “I tell them I’m in the same boat as they are.” Falisi, along with her friend Jennifer Orlando – another bio major – expressed the issue of keeping lab books in stock, while also implementing this system sooner.
“I think it’s weird that they had a deal with Amazon before they opened up a physical location,” said Sean Hurney, a business major.
Nobody thought this was a problem? Nobody thought it was bad that bio majors didn’t have their lab books the first week of school? Apparently IT can improve WiFi access across campus, but can’t figure out how to help students on TAP pay online for their books? That was briefly mentioned in FSA’s Board of Director’s minutes back in April, and nothing since, which begs one question: Will those on financial aid have the same issues next semester?
The only explanation given is “Oh, it’s a new system, and anything new has some kinks to work out.” Maybe IT and FSA couldn’t figure out a resolve in regards to students on financial aid. Maybe It’s a decision that can’t be implemented without approval from New York State. Who knows. But notifying students two months before the semester started was the moral thing to do? And even if 1,209 students were emailed in June about the cessation of Bookstore Campus Accounts, that didn’t come up in the two mass emails praising this new system, either.
A new mailroom was constructed in Gershwin to help with the influx though, so that’s good, right?
None of this would be a problem if we still had a bookstore that sells textbooks and not adult coloring books, university apparel for those loyal Seawolves and a Starbucks opening next semester. Yes, a Starbucks in a bookstore. Because nothing says “creating more of a campus university identity,” than coloring books and Starbucks.