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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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Lack of disclosure provokes uproar over Follett’s agreement with SBCC

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A contract between City College and Follett Corporation to take over textbook operations at the campus bookstore left the Academic Senate under scrutiny over the agreement within its final day before approval on Wednesday, Nov. 8. 

“Did we have an attorney at the college redline [the contract] at all,” Daniel Spitz said, business law professor at City College.

After an examination of the contract, Spitz noticed the absence of any third-party disclosures on what Follett, a provider of course materials and store merchandise, specifically can or cannot do with student information.

Among other sections within the five-year contract with Follett, one that stood out the most to Spitz was section 3.3, which outlined that City College was responsible for repurchasing any unsold inventory in the bookstore once the contract expires or if the college chooses to terminate the contract.  

City College may end their contract with Follett within 120 days of signing, though the Senate believes the college “won’t be able to afford to terminate [the contract]” after acknowledging these implications.

Katie Laris, theatre arts co-chair, raised the question of whether or not these policies were the “standard” for most corporation agreements such as Follett’s with City College. 

“Contracts of these nature have ‘gives’, and unless we’re willing to push back on it, I think that’s their initial approach to these things,” Spitz said in response to Laris’ concern. “I think Follett has ‘gives’ on their end, but we need to know to ask for it.”

On Nov. 1, Brian Fahnestock, vice president of business services, hosted an open online forum inviting all City College employees and students with the intention of answering questions related to the college’s integration with Follett for textbook sales.   

“I was concerned at the webinar that Brian seemed to have had a long standing relationship with Follett…I felt like the webinar was very managed in terms of questions,” said Danielle Swiontek, social science senator. 

Swiontek argued that the contract with Follett has felt “pushed and rushed along” without the review of other faculty members.

However, some members of the executive committee questioned the Senate’s range of influence on the matter and others alike.  

“I want to understand the purview of Academic Senate…[is] the purview of this body to go into every contract,” said Jordan Killebrew, executive director of public affairs and communication.

Academic Senate President Kimberley Monda explained how she “could almost cry” before addressing Killebrew’s comment due to how important the conversation meant to her. 

“This is the third time this administration has not shared information with us in advance,” Monda said. “We had to do a ton of extra work and scramble, and it’s been really stressful and not how we want to collaborate and work together.” 

The Academic Senate will reconvene on Wednesday, Nov. 29.

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