Outsourcing services may become a reality as the University of Maine System seeks to save money. One service that may be affected is the University Bookstore, if it becomes privatized, as suggested in Chancellor Richard Pattenaude’s financial sustainability plan.
Such an action could result in all current bookstore employees losing their jobs.
“Outsourcing is talking about where you take something the university does and then you ask someone outside the university to provide that service. Many universities across the country are exploring that,” Pattenaude said in an on-campus discussion Feb. 9. “We look at it very carefully to ensure it is a wise decision, and as a result, we’ve done very little [so far]. It certainly will be something we’ll have to access.”
Little has been done so far, but the possibility of job loses has many people worried.
“I would be very upset with losing my job,” said Nathan Lavoie, a bookstore employee and third-year student. “I also know that the full-time staff actually care about the students and work hard to make sure we have the tools we need. Some of them have worked here for around 30 years, so they know the ins and outs of everything, and only want to help further provide for the students.”
According to the proposed plan, outsourcing the bookstore would include efforts that “can lead to additional outsourcing and inter-university contracting for services.”
“Bookstores are classic examples, and we’ll take a look at it, and if it makes sense, then we’ll see where we go with it. But this is going to be an evidence-driven conversation, which means that the business case has to make sense with reducing costs,” Pattenaude said.
Privatization may save the university money. What it will cost is yet to be determined.
According to Lavoie, the bookstore staff’s concern about students may disappear if the bookstore were outsourced.
“I know that the full-time staff that works within the textbook department tries extremely hard to keep cost down for students by getting a large portion of books used, and also by communicating with faculty and staff,” Lavoie said.
“Big commercial businesses might equal less care and concern for the actual student population at UMaine.”