Students in an English composition class and their professor performed a sit-in at the Barnes & Noble on campus on Thursday Aug. 22.
Dr. Noel Harold Kaylor, a professor of English and a German instructor, and one of his composition classes chose to protest in the bookstore after the store ran out of copies of their course’s textbooks.
According to Dr. Kaylor only about 40 books were stocked when 120 students needed them.
“This failure to provide adequate numbers of books to students on day one of each semester results from the corporate and store policy,” Kaylor said.
According to Kaylor, this problem originates with a corporate policy at Barnes & Noble Inc. that requires the stores to order only a percentage of the books they anticipate selling.
“If a bad law causes good people to make bad decisions, the law must be changed. If a corporate policy causes good store personnel to make bad decisions, the policy must be changed,” Kaylor said.
However, Aliza McGee, store manager of the Barnes & Noble University Bookstore, said that Barnes & Noble College has no such policy.
“Barnes & Noble College does not have a policy on how many textbooks to order for any class. Our goal is to have enough books available so that every student who desires a textbook has the ability to purchase one,” McGee said. “The bookstore offers students a variety of textbook options including new, used, rental and digital. Digital formats are always available and in stock.”
McGee said that the bookstore adjusts the quantities of books they order each semester in order to anticipate consumer demands, and that the bookstore will always provide books for students who request one.
Dr. Kaylor said he never encountered this problem when the university ran its own bookstore, but he has consistently encountered it with Barnes & Noble. “Insufficient numbers of books has been a problem since Troy ceased operating its own bookstore,” Kaylor said.
Classes had been in session just over a week by the time of the protest, and Dr. Kaylor had to delay quizzes and assignments until all of his students had the book.
According to Dr. Kaylor the sit-in took only about 20 minutes. He and his students sat down in the floor around the central counter in the bookstore. Dr. Kaylor said that the protesters were asked to move to the café but they refused because, in Kaylor’s words, they “were protesting over books, not coffee.”
Dr. Kaylor frequently pointed out that the issue is not with the personnel at the bookstore but the corporate policy causing the book shortage.
Kaylor referred to The Almanac of Higher Education, a publication that tracks the statistics of universities throughout the U.S. according to the almanac, Troy University is the largest university in Alabama in terms of enrollment. It should be noted that this measure takes into account all Troy campuses and online enrollment. “We’re the biggest, but our students deserve we be the best,” Kaylor said.
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He believes that, in this case, the bookstore was not contributing positively to this goal.
According to Kaylor some have called the sit-in overkill, but, when asked if he would have done anything different, his reply was simple. “What else could I do?”
Though he complimented Troy’s administration, Kaylor said he hoped that the protest made them aware of the problem.
“I am convinced that the administration of Troy University above the level of dean was unaware of the problem of inadequate quantities of books available for sale on day-one each semester until now,” Kaylor said
The book that the protest was held over arrived the next day, but Kaylor said that a grammar book for his classes is still out of stock.
Dr. Kaylor did receive a phone call from the Barnes & Noble regional manager Bobby Hamous who apologized for the issue.
Kaylor said he has also talked with other instructors who sympathized with the protest and have encountered similar problems with the bookstore.
Tara Donaldson, the associate vice chancellor and controller, who is in charge of university relations with Barnes & Noble was unable to be reached.