At least three Georgetown University Bookstore employees, including an employee who has worked at the bookstore for more than 30 years, lost their jobs when the bookstore switched vendors from Follett to Barnes & Noble College last month.
Former bookstore employee LuAnne Buzzanca was turned down for part-time and full-time rehiring by Barnes & Noble in mid-May. Buzzanca began working at the bookstore in 1985 when it was still run out of Lauinger Library.
“When they turned me down the first time, I was like, ‘There’s nobody who can do what I did,” Buzzanca said. “And that was really messed up. I mean, I helped train the cashiers, I helped train the managers on the register, I greeted the people. I did everything for the last  years.”
All Follett employees were offered an interview by Barnes & Noble, according to Barnes & Noble College Regional Manager Chris Colbert.
“Understandably, some employees chose to remain employed with Follett and were placed in positions in other areas within that company,” Colbert wrote in an email to The Hoya. “A vast majority of employees, however, transitioned with Barnes & Noble College, along with six internal hires from Barnes & Noble College.”
Colbert declined to provide specific numbers on how many former Follett employees were offered a position and how many were not.
Buzzanca said she was not offered the opportunity to remain with Follett and would have to reapply for a job at a different Follett location. She added that two of the other employees who were also turned down for re-employment were replaced by the Barnes & Noble College internal hires.
Buzzanca said that when she was turned down for employment by Barnes & Noble College, the management told her that other candidates had better qualifications. But Buzzanca, who was left handicapped after a car accident three years ago, questioned whether her physical ability may have affected her eligibility. Colbert declined to comment on Buzzanca’s status, citing confidentiality.
“You know, I’m still not fully recovered. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it or not,” Buzzanca said. “You know, throw that in the mix but it’s a questionable thing.”
Two remaining full-time employees who worked with Buzzanca at the old bookstore in Lauinger Library were rehired by Barnes & Noble College and will continue with the new bookstore operator.
Bookstore employees are covered by the university’s Just Employment Policy, which is designed to ensure the fair treatment of university employees. As part of the policy, the university seeks to ensure the continued employment of current university employees when services change contractors.
“Georgetown will attempt to avoid employee job loss as the result of implementation of this policy. If Georgetown no longer contracts work to a subcontracting firm, the University will prioritize employment of any workers who presently work under those subcontractors at Georgetown University, to the extent legally possible,” the policy reads.
Sophie Bauerschmidt Sweeney (COL ’17), a member of the worker’s rights advocacy group Georgetown Solidarity Committee and the Advisory Committee on Business Practices, which develops the Just Employment Policy, said the ACBP requested for Barnes & Noble to retain the bookstore employees for a trial period.
“Several members of the Advisory Committee on Business Practices tried to push for an automatic trial period for all employees so they could only be dismissed if there’s actually a problem, but that didn’t happen,” Bauerschmidt Sweeney wrote in an email to The Hoya. “This is an instance in which the intent of and the spirit of the JEP really isn’t being followed.”
The former manager of the book store under Follett also asked for all employees to be kept on, according to Buzzanca.
Former student bookstore employee Emeline Kong (COL ’17) said she was disappointed with how the transition unfolded, particularly the staff restructuring. Buzzanca trained Kong as a bookstore employee three years ago.
“I know how much the job meant to [Buzzanca] and how hard she works for the bookstore,” Kong wrote to The Hoya. “The decision shows that the new management does not have a complete perspective on what the bookstore is and has been for the last few years.”
Barnes & Noble College’s takeover of bookstore operations were announced to the university community in a May 25 email from Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Services Joelle Wiese’s office.
As part of the transition, the main campus bookstore and Law Center bookstore will be renovated next summer, while the School of Continuing Studies bookstore location shut down on June 10.
Despite the staff restructuring, Wiese said the bookstore transition progressed smoothly.
“The transition has gone very smoothly,” Wiese wrote in an email to The Hoya. “UIS’ assistance and support from faculty with course materials has been tremendous in this process. The transition from one vendor to another, ensuring customer’s needs were met, was due to the hard work of many people from Georgetown, Follett and Barnes & Noble.”
According to Wiese, Barnes & Noble College has made the bookstore more efficient in its operations, shaving an average of 30 seconds off customer transaction times with the introduction of newer cash register technology. Wiese added that customers also now have more affordable options for course materials with Barnes & Noble’s price-match program and improved rental options.
Colbert said that the new bookstore aims not only to improve customers’ shopping experiences but also to engage the Georgetown community through events with nationally renowned authors and Georgetown faculty members who author new books.
“Our goal is to create a vibrant social and academic hub on campus that precisely reflects Georgetown University’s mission and values and build relationships that enrich the university experience and extend ties long after graduation,” Colbert wrote in his email to The Hoya.
For her part, Buzzanca has accepted her future outside of the bookstore.
“I’m pretty sure a lot of people are going to be shocked, but there’s nothing I can do,” Buzzanca said.
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