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UNC faculty addresses Student Stores privatization

Vice Chairperson of the Faculty Executive Committee Michael Gerhardt said Monday that privatizing Student Stores could be detrimental to scholarship funding and ultimately reduce the store’s employee benefits.

“I find it very disturbing,” Gerhardt said. “As faculty, we need to think of the potential impact on staff who are very distressed by this.”

Gerhardt said Bull’s Head Bookshop, which could risk shutting down, fosters intellectual growth among faculty. Gerhardt has been attending faculty-led book talks at the bookshop for years.

“We need to know exactly how this will affect scholarships, as we all know that money is precious,” Gerhardt said.

Charles Streeter, chairperson of the employee forum, said the unsolicited proposal submitted in July called for a $3 million annual commission to the University, a figure he said Student Stores already exceeds with revenues.

Streeter said he reached out to universities in the UNC system with bookstores leased by Follett, the same company that proposed the privatization at UNC.

“One of the chairs from another university was very upset with Follett taking over the school’s bookstore,” Streeter said. “Workers had all of their benefits cut, their hours cut in half, and they weren’t making the same kind of money.”

Streeter said he spoke with officials at Western Carolina University who investigated another similar proposal and decided to not move forward with privatization.

“There are a number of fine details that haven’t been looked at thoroughly enough,” Streeter said.

Law professor Joseph Ferrell said privatization often allows for decreased costs to the University with the elimination of state-funded employee benefits, citing a similar privatization of the Carolina Inn, which was once University managed.

Leadership arrangements

Chairperson of the Faculty Bruce Cairns is currently recovering from a heart attack, so he was unavailable at Monday’s meeting.

The committee unanimously decided that during Cairns’ absence, Peter Mucha, chairperson of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee, will serve as the chairperson of the faculty, and Gerhardt will lead the committee’s meetings.

The next Faculty Executive Committee meeting will take place Oct. 12 in South Building Room 105 at 3 p.m., after the University Day ceremony.

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