No deal yet, says Heaphy

DIANA GRIER AYTON | In the last few months McGill's Bookstore has been ardently pursued by North America's major book retailing chains. Like eager suitors, they have come to campus from far and wide with proposals. At its annual business meeting last week, Toronto-based Chapters Inc. apparently went ahead and announced that we're engaged.

While Chapters has been crowing in the media, McGill's administration has been resolutely silent. Vice-Principal (Administration and Finance) Phyllis Heaphy says that the proposal to outsource management of the bookstore to Chapters will be brought to Senate on October 1, and that until that discussion takes place, she won't comment.

"I remain committed to the idea that the community should be exposed to all the issues in an orderly fashion. I cordially invite all interested members of the community to attend the meeting" at which time she says she will "answer any and all questions put to me by members of Senate."

Heaphy assembled an ad hoc workgroup early in the summer to reconsider the idea of outsourcing after the Senate bookstore committee had failed to support it.

The workgroup, composed of four students and four faculty members, met with representatives of Chapters. John David Stanway, a PGSS representative who sat on both committees, is quoted in the Daily this week as saying that the company "impressed everyone (on) the committee so much in their interview that we decided to go with them."

Heaphy acknowledges, "It is now known that this committee will recommend that the management of the Bookstore be contracted out to Chapters," but she emphasizes that the recommendation "is simply that: a recommendation."

Heaphy made one other point very firmly: whatever the outcome, "all current employees of the Bookstore will remain McGill employees with all the benefits and obligations of other McGill employees. I am truly sorry for the pain this year of uncertainty has caused them; I would have liked to hasten the process, but it was not possible."

About 10% of Canadian university bookstores currently operate under outside management. Chicago-based Follett Inc., which made an unsolicited proposal to McGill last year, has just signed up Bishop's University and already manages bookstores at the University of Ottawa and Humber College. Barnes and Noble has a deal with Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario, and approached both McGill and Concordia.

Vice-rector (services) at Concordia Charles Emond, conceded in a recentGazette interview that the outsourcing pitch was "appealing." In the end, though, the university decided that it was "in the best interest of students" to make no change.