Background and Additional Resources

In response to a number of questions that have emerged from Dr. Don Curtis’s email on Monday afternoon, December 12, 2011, I would offer the following additional information that I hope will address questions and concerns:

  • All faculty are empowered to select the textbooks and course materials they wish to require and recommend to registered students which enable them to best achieve learning objectives in their courses. Faculty are encouraged to include a listing of the required and recommended textbooks and course resource materials on their syllabi for the course.
  • All students are encouraged to purchase required and recommended textbooks and course materials to be successful in the course, but at their discretion and from whichever retailer(s) they feel best serves their individual need for price, service and amenities. 
  • Texas A&M is committed to assisting students to make informed course registration decisions, by sharing the required and recommended course materials they will be expected to have access to for all courses. This not only enables students to make sound registration decisions and assists in their personal financial planning,  but also maintains Texas A&M compliance with state and federal regulations regarding posting of information on required and recommended course materials. (See Federal Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) 2010 Guidance from Department of Education and Texas House Bill 33 (HB 33), which became law this September and aligns state expectations for compliance with the federal guidance. Both are posted online.)
  • Additional elements of the HEOA 2010 make requirements of publishers who work with Faculty directly to appropriately represent costs to the students directly and through campus affiliated bookstores.
  • Since the Mid 1980s, the MSC Bookstore has been the designated collector of the list of required and recommended textbooks and course materials. Each Department has a designated textbook coordinator who provides the required and recommended textbook and course materials listing for departmental courses to the MSC Bookstore at designated times each semester (see the list of departmental bookstore liaisons).  As the MSC Bookstore receives the listings, they are automatically shared via email distribution list with other booksellers who wish to serve Texas A&M student needs.  Additionally the listing is posted on the MSC Bookstore website and since last Spring, through a registration integration project, this listing is linked to the HOWDY registration portal, so that students can see in real time the known required and recommended course materials.
  • Texas House Bill 33, passed Summer 2011, requires that institutions of higher education provide the students with course listings and corresponding required/recommended course materials as soon as practicable and no later than the 30th day prior to the start of the term during which the registered course will begin.  The MSC Bookstore works with the Registrar, HOWDY Portal administrators and department departmental textbook coordinators to facilitate this process well in advance of the 30th day requirement.  As this is the first semester of the new law, we are using this opportunity to evaluate the processes and will be communicating best practices of most successful departments in hopes of improving response rates in the Spring Semester.
  • Texas A&M complies with state regulation related to communicating to students their rights to purchase textbooks and course materials from any retailers of their choosing. Each student reviews an informational page regarding this statement during the registration process.
  • In 1990 the University elected to seek a third party partnership to operate the MSC Bookstore and serve as the exclusive retailer of logo’d apparel, merchandise and course material needs (textbooks, supplemental materials, course packets, etc) .  Through an RFP process, Barnes & Noble was selected as the operator. This contract ran through 2005. The University issued a new RFP process in 2005 and Barnes & Noble was selected as operator again. As part of this contractual partnership, Barnes & Noble shares revenue with Texas A&M averaging $1.5 Million a year.  These funds have supported scholarships, student activities, the University Libraries and other individual programs such as summer enrichment programs, University Art Galleries and New Faculty Orientation.
  • The contract allows for the MSC Bookstore shall be Texas A&M University's exclusive buyer and seller of all required, recommended or suggested course materials and tools, including books, and materials published or distributed electronically, or sold over the Internet. As used in this Agreement, "Internet" includes the World Wide Web and any proprietary on-line service (e.g., America On Line). This “exclusive buyer/seller” role refers to purchases/sells made by TEXAS A&M (Departments & Colleges). The most often occurrence of this scenario is when a department has elected to utilize course fees to purchase textbooks, online workbooks or subscriptions for every student registered in a course or program, and thereby have limited students’ opportunity to choose a vendor on their own.
  • When required/recommended course materials are simply listed by faculty and then left to the student’s discretion as to if and where to purchase, then this exclusivity does not apply. Similarly, however, faculty are not allowed to designate any single location as the sole source for students to acquire textbooks and course materials regardless if it is from on-campus, off-campus, online or other retailers. This preserves competition for students to choose from.
  • For those faculty who use assembled course packets or copy bundles in lieu of textbooks, the need to notify students of the course materials to be used in the course is still required by state and federal regulation mentioned above and should be indicated by departmental Bookstore Liaisons in the required/recommended course materials listing submitted to MSC Bookstore. The MSC Bookstore is willing to work with each faculty member to assist in assembling and copying packets similarly to other vendors. Both the off campus vendors and MSC Bookstore would plan accordingly and compete to fulfill student needs. 
  • “Course materials” should also include any devices such as clickers, calculators, or other devices that faculty feel would improve student abilities to succeed in their course.  Just as textbooks, the MSC Bookstore will provide the listing of these materials to all competitors for their consideration to offer students choice.
  • Contractually Barnes & Noble is required to stock known required/recommended textbooks and course materials. “Known” materials is achieved only by the departmental submission of required/recommended course materials process described in detail above.
  • Again, only when the department, college or university has elected to purchase/sell textbooks and course materials on the students’ behalf does it require negotiation through the MSC Bookstore.  In this regard, contractually agreed terms for MSC Bookstore pricing will be in effect.


To assist further, this list of clarifications as well as referenced attachments and the current contractual agreement with Barnes & Noble are posted online.

I will attempt to address specific individual questions some of you posed over the next few days, but felt it was important to provide a more complete history and context to the initial email announcement you received.

Thanks for your patience as I assembled the pertinent back up materials and conferred with Offices of General Counsel, Division of Finance, Division of Marketing & Communications and MSC Bookstore staff to ensure contract administration elements were not being violated with this message.

 

Chad Wootton, associate vice president for external affairs