RESOLVED: That the Academic Senate of Sonoma State University strongly urges the SSU Administration to delay signing the contract with Barnes and Noble, and allow time to fully assess, in cooperation with the Acacemic Senate and a broad representation of faculty and students, the capabilities of our own state employees and/or local and regional venders to manage the SSU bookstore.
RATIONALE: Sonoma State Enterprises (SSE) released a request for proposals (RFP) for management of the SSU bookstore on March 10, 2006 with a deadline for filing a response of April 6, 2006. There was no public announcement of this RFP; instead SSE sent the RFP directly to three national bookstores chains including Barnes and Noble. Page two of the RFP states "SSE is seeking to establish a business partnership with a nationally recognized bookstore company. "
Local and regional independent bookstores such as Copperfield’s and North Light were deemed unqualified, and thus excluded from applying for this contract. It is unclear why the option of continuing the bookstore as is, with a new manager, has seemingly been rejected.
As we now know, Barnes and Noble has been selected for the contract. The contract is scheduled to be signed this week, with Barnes and Noble taking over management responsibility July 10 2006. Very few people on campus were aware of this major change in how our $4.5 million bookstore operation will be handled until early last week.
At a time when the state is so strapped for money, bringing in a chain store that would siphon money out of the state while also competing with local booksellers who are much more supportive of their communities seems ill-advised. Copperfield’s and North Light – as well as the SSU Bookstore -- are members of NCIBA (Northern California Independent Booksellers Association), and according to its spokesperson “would be well-justified in weighing in if needed”.
David Grabill, an attorney for Copperfield’s and North Light has sent the following letter to President Arminana, suggesting that the University has acted in violation of State Law:
Re: SSU Student Bookstore Contract for Operation and Management
Dear President Armiñana,
I've been asked to contact you on behalf of Copperfield’s Books and North Light Books, two local bookstores which are well-known to the faculty and students of Sonoma State.
They recently learned that a subsidiary of the University, Sonoma State Enterprises, Inc. ("SSE") issued a Request for Proposal for an outside company to operate the Sonoma State University Bookstore. The bookstore had over $4.6 million in sales in the 2004-2005 school year, and turned over a profit of roughly $200,000 to the University. It provided jobs for many SSU students. The bookstore has generally been considered a successful operation, and its current manager, who is retiring soon, has received praise from both faculty and students.
Instead of simply recruiting a qualified replacement for the manager, SSE quietly decided to issue an RFP proposing to turn over management and operation of the bookstore to "a nationally recognized bookstore company." We understand that the RFP was submitted to three national bookstore chains, and that the decision has been made at some level to award a contract to Barnes and Noble -- with no public input, and with no opportunity for local bookstores to submit proposals.
The State Contract Act, Pub. Contract Code §10700 et seq., requires public notice prior to entering into contracts such as this. The University and its subsidiaries are normally required by §10140 of the Act to publish notice of this RFP "in a newspaper of general circulation published in the county in which the project is located, or if located in more than one county, in such a newspaper in a county in which a major portion of the work is to be done." We don't believe the SSE complied with this requirement.
Absent compliance with the publication requirements of state law, neither the University nor its subsidiary, SSE, has authority to enter into a contract with Barns and Noble for operation of the university bookstore.
Both Copperfield’s Books and North Light Books have operated successful bookstores for many years, and have greatly enriched the literary and cultural fabric of our county. These local book sellers should at least have an opportunity to submit a proposal to operate the university bookstore, and the selection process among the various proposals should not be carried out without some opportunity for public comment and input. By failing to publish a notice of the RFP in a local newspaper of general circulation, or publicize this opportunity in any other manner in this area, SSE and the University have essentially denied these highly respected local businesses this opportunity. By contrast, it appears that SSE made special efforts to recruit proposals from Barnes and Noble and one or two other big chains with few ties to this community or university.
There may well be some advantage to having a big chain like Barnes and Noble on campus, but neither you nor your staff nor the public can even begin to weigh the merits of Copperfield’s, North Light Books, and perhaps other local book sellers vis-a-vis Barnes and Noble if local companies have not been allowed to compete for this contract.
I would request that SSE halt further negotiations with Barnes and Noble until the publication requirements of the State Contract Act have been fulfilled, and the university has opened this bidding process to Copperfield’s and North Light Books.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or if I can provide any additional information.