After years of oppressively high prices and pathetically poor performance, the time has come for the university to part ways with one of its least-popular associations: the Follett Corporation. Georgetown and Follett are currently negotiating their contract for the next few years. The Editorial Board thinks that these negotiations are unnecessary: Follett must go.

The company, which owns the university’s bookstore, is the country’s largest operator of university stores. In all, Follett is responsible for about 760 stores. But bigger by no means implies that Follett is better.

Follett serves as an unnecessary and exploitative middleman between the university’s faculty and students, reaping profits from college students and their cash-strapped university. It’s an embarrassing scar on the reputation of our school, and there’s no excuse for it.

Faculty have complained for years that the store fails to accurately fill order requests by professors with any level of consistency, causing some classes to go days or weeks without necessary reading materials. Members of this Board have had classes in which textbooks arrived late or were not made available at all. When books are available, high prices often present a horrifying choice to students: go hungry in order to pay for books, or drop a desirable class as some have been known to do. Though many students do find alternate sources for their textbooks, the information about booklists is not released early enough to have the books at the start of the course, which compromises the ability of students to perform well in the initial encounter with the subject.

This is unacceptable.

Conspicuously absent from the list of Follett partners are the very schools to which Georgetown compares itself: Duke, Yale, Boston College and others. These schools maintain their own bookstores, keeping prices low in order to assuage the burden of ever-increasing costs.

It’s unclear why the university avoids these options. One argument is that Follett provides the university with rent and profit-sharing which enable it to better serve students. But students are harmed by the bookstore’s inconsistency and high prices which pay for that revenue. A university-run store would allow Georgetown to continue to generate revenue without passing on the costs of rent and corporate greed.

It wouldn’t be hard. Surely a university which brags about its business school could manage to operate a shop. Right?

Following other prestigious institution’s example, the university could work closely with a student initiative (The Corp for example) and allow students to be responsible for their own bookstore.

When an outside company maintains a poorly run monopoly over the distribution of education materials on campus, the university can do little to maintain acceptable levels of accountability. Georgetown lags behind other schools, and our students are the ones who suffer.

Follett must go.

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