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High bookstore costs prompt students to get textbooks illegally

Students say textbook theft and copyright infringements are justifiable considering high bookstore costs.

After the $3,000 tuition increase for the 2006-2007 school year, Mills students are now saying textbook costs at the Mills bookstore are unjust and have found ways to avoid the high costs.

Rumors from student employees of increasing theft at the bookstore, although not confirmed by bookstore manager Omar Sanchez, have caused even its employees to agree textbook costs are too high, “even with our employee discount,” said an employee who wished to remain anonymous.

Sanchez, who began working at the bookstore at the start of the 2006 fall semester, said that the bookstore is run by Follett, A Higher Education group that oversees many college bookstores.

“They set the prices,” said Sanchez. “I was hired to clean up the place from a managerial perspective and increase traffic.”

Students like Brittany Taylor-Vernon, however, say bookstore prices are only pushing students to look for “every other alternative before giving up more money to Mills.”

These alternatives include buying books elsewhere, such as online or at UC Berkeley, and stealing. According to the anonymous bookstore employee, this has resulted in an increase in bookstore security and security cameras have now been installed to help monitor the thefts. Sanchez failed to comment on this issue for what he says are contractual reasons.

Sanchez said Follett does not handle theft issues that arise, and failed to comment on whether it has increased, saying that Mills’ public safety handles those issues.

Those not daring enough to pilfer, like Taylor-Vernon, often have chosen their classes according to the amount and prices of the textbooks assigned.

“I signed up for one of the required college 60 courses and then had to drop it once I saw how many textbooks there were,” said Taylor-Vernon. “They weren’t that expensive individually, but all together became too much.”

Taylor-Vernon never addressed this problem to the professor, but did go to the Ethnic Studies Department and learned she could check out the books required for that College 60 course through the Ethnic Studies’ own library.

Taylor-Vernon took advantage of this during the first week when under the impression that she could check out books for the duration of the semester.

“That’s what Jean Wong told me [Executive Assistant of Ethnic Studies],” Taylor-Vernon said. “But then I heard of the two-hour reserve and I couldn’t really count on the time limit and availability of the books, so I dropped the class.”

Sophomore Jasmine, who refused to provide her last name, said she would have handled the situation differently.

“Once I get the syllabus, I buy the books I need, photo copy them, then return them as soon as possible,” said Jasmine.

Sanchez says that students have a two-week grace period in which to return books and get their money back if the student kept their receipt.

“I wasn’t really aware that was going on, and there isn’t much I can do to stop that,” said Sanchez. “But students should know they are infringing on copyright issues when they do that.”

Jasmine excuses her actions, saying she does not copy entire books or profit from the copies.

“When I have to buy a forty-eight dollar book and only read two chapters from it, that’s when I do it,” said Jasmine. “I just throw the copies away after midterms and stuff.”

Others say that stealing is a viable option.

“Clothes aren’t being stolen, just books,” said the bookstore employee. “It isn’t the bookstore; Mills makes the contract between them and Follett. there’s a basic need here and Mills is coming up short.”