A Letter from the Editor: UAS Needs its Bookstore Back

daniel-piscoya-1BY DANIEL PISCOYA
Managing Editor, UAS Whalesong

Two years ago, when I was a Staff Writer for the Whalesong, I interviewed Tom Dienst, Director of UAS Business Services, on the closure of the UAS Bookstore, once located at Auke bay.

Dienst referred me to the UAS Bookstore 2013 Program Review, which cited the store’s consistent revenue shortfalls as the primary reason for closing the business. As a UAS auxiliary operation, the bookstore was a “self-supporting” operation where a “pattern of insufficient revenues” had been “consistent for the entire time the bookstore [had] occupied its current space.”

However, despite its decline in revenue – an indication that students preferred online bookstores or ebooks – the loss of the campus bookstore has been keenly felt in the past few semesters.

As a student of English literature, I can testify that it is a regular occurrence to be left unprepared for class because – though I ordered them well before the start of the semester – my books were still in transit. For less-prepared students, or those without Kindles or ebooks, this can mean weeks or even months of wasted time.

Shipping time isn’t the only factor eating at students, either. As Staff Writer Erin Laughlin observes in her article on alt-textbooks, the 2016 UAS Teaching and Learning Resources survey found that faculty considers cost to be the fourth factor when choosing resources for a class. Often, I’ve heard of professors assigning an expensive textbook, only to utilize key-code homework sites that students also have to pay for. Some students face in excess of $800 in books and related fees every semester – a painfully unpredictable expense.

A bookstore located on campus instead of Auke bay might be able to subsidize costs more effectively than the current bookstore website – an operating capacity that was hoped to be temporary in the first place.

Dienst did not fail to note that the bookstore’s highest financial peak was when it was located in the Mourant building back in the 1990s.

It would also be a convenient fallback for less prepared students, or students whose book orders are taking too long.

Plans for a Student Union that would incorporate such a bookstore were put on indefinite hold this year as the University budget plummeted.

Yet the increasing number of consistently unprepared students and high peripheral student expenses are beginning to be felt too sorely to be ignored.

When it comes time to decide what to do with capital budget projects – after the budget crisis, that is – the long-awaited Student Union needs to be top of the list. We need our bookstore back.

Feel free to contact Managing Editor Daniel Piscoya at the Whalesong e-mail: uas.whalesong@alaska.edu.

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