Continuing a debate begun last week in
these pages, several writers comment on the report of the University Councils
Bookstore Committee, published October
14. Dr. Robert Regan, who as chair of the Committee
responded to writers last
week, said he would reserve further comment until
the November 12 Council meeting when the report is scheduled. --Ed.
Booklists & Academic Freedom
Unmentioned in the debate about on-line
course book lists is the issue of academic freedom. Do not I as an individual
teacher enjoy the freedom to recommend the bookseller for my classes and
to decide whether or not to place my book lists on line? And would this
freedom not be infringed if the provost or some other body were to impose
regulation on this liberty?
My institutional memory is ten years longer than Professor Regans, and I
can recall no instance in which "monopolies were given to ideological
friends." For thirty years I and many of my department colleagues have
recommended the Penn Book Center as our bookseller of choice. We do so,
in part, because they are accommodating, personal, interested, efficient,
and un-bureaucratic. But more important, some of us believe that a serious
bookseller is vital to the intellectual life of a university community and
that our students should be encouraged to browse their shelves for the sake
of books, undistracted by cosmetics, T-shirts, and beer mugs.
--Cecil L. Striker,
Professor of the History of Art
In Any Shopping Mall
I am distressed by the content and tone
of the Bookstore Committees report (October
14) and its chairmans response (October 28). The reports paean to "free and open competition"
masks the real danger of the Bookstore Committees proposal: to drive local
independent bookstores out of business by encouraging students to purchase
their course books at the Barnes & Noble-run University bookstore. There
cannot be a "level playing field" (Regans words) when a national
chain store, supported by the University, is permitted to lift course lists
from departmental home pages without instructors consent. Nor will a "lively
and competitive" market prevail when two of the three players cannot
take advantage of high-priced advertising and the resources of a multinational
conglomerate to protect their fragile niche.
Professor Regan suggests that it is "disadvantageous for students"
to purchase their books at bookstores other than the University bookstore.
I contend that it would be disadvantageous for Penn students to do the bulk
of their book shopping in a bookstore run by a national chain. One can find
Barnes & Nobles, with their bland selection of military histories, banal
self-help books, and paperback bestsellers, in any shopping mall in the
country. But one expects better of university communities. Harvard Square
is a vital shopping district because of its many independent bookstores;
Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley remains a national magnet for bibliophiles
because of its wonderful small book shops. University of Chicago students
can spend fruitful hours perusing the stacks at Powells or negotiating the
labyrinthine aisles of the Seminary Coop. As a student in New York, my intellectual
life was greatly enriched by the independent bookstores that thrived on
the Upper West Side (before Barnes & Noble drove them out of business).
Our two small independents provide excellent service and stock a variety
of books seldom found in a large chain store. At House of Our Own, my students
may browse through sections such as intellectual history, historiography,
social welfare, and women and the third world. For the last six years I
have ordered my course books there to give them the opportunity (if they
choose to take it) to expand their intellectual horizons. I introduce them
to bookstore owners who care about books and ideas. I remind them that there
is more to the commercial world than suburban shopping malls and national
chain stores. At House of Our Own, students can listen to book talks by
the likes of our comparative literature professor Liliane Weissberg rather
than Howard Stern and Danielle Steel. Above all, they can spend hours pouring
through books like mine and Professor Regansand many, many other books by
university presses and small publishers whose titles have a depressingly
short shelf-life at national chain stores.
In short, many of us have compelling intellectual reasonsnot merely friendship,
ideological comradeship, or "habit"to continue ordering our books
through the independents. The Bookstore Committees proposals, if enacted,
pose a grave threat to the intellectual life of the University and its surrounding
--Thomas J. Sugrue
Associate Professor of History
Oasis for Thirsty Minds
I am amazed at Bookstore Committee chair
Robert Regans letter of October
28. He claims that the instructors who wish to
list their books with House of Our Own "...seem by habit to have continued
to support monopolies, however disadvantageous for students that may be..."
on behalf of their "ideological friends."
Is he kidding?
The business House of Our Own attracts is marginal to that of the student
bookstore as it is today. Please note that House of Our Own does not stock
medical or law textbooks, nor does it stock the major texts of such fields
as anthropology, sociology, or economics. By and large, its sales are confined
to certain humanities coursesand a lot of its books have also been available
at bookstores in town as well. That House of Our Own can survive on even
this portion of the market is a good indication of its scale.
Barnes & Noble can draw upon cash reserves and distribution channels
that House of Our Own simply doesnt have. Also, B&N is capable of hiring
people to scan the course booklists and stock up on the needed booksa tactic
HOOO cant afford to do at all. So theres no way any reasonable person can
regard HOOO as sharing a "level playing field."
If professors decide to give House of Our Own their business, it will have
a marginal impact on Barnes & Nobles business at best. No monopoly could
be established by such a practice. Regan is simply wrong on this argument,
and Im amazed that hed even advance such an argument.
Now, Regan might argue that giving HOOO ones exclusive business constitutes
giving it a "monopoly." Oh, sure it is. A monopoly on a handful
of courses at the University of Pennsylvania. How sad for Barnes & Noble!
And if I buy most of my magazines at Avril 50, does this mean that that
stores got a "monopoly" on my dollar? Oh, the injustice! How unfair
of me to take food from the mouths of Barnes & Nobles stockholders!
And Regan asserts that this would be far more beneficial for students. Well,
if a student is someone whose main concerns are ease of use of credit cards,
access to the weeks best-sellers and astrology-diet editions, and getting
out of a bookstore as quickly as possible without getting distracted by
all those other weird books, odd ideas, offbeat magazines or considerate
clerks, well, maybe Regan would be right. Maybe Regan really isnt this contemptuous
of university students and the life of the mindbut his juvenile, red-baiting
comment about HOOOs leftist orientation and "ideological friends"
isnt exactly evidence to the contrary.
But the real meat of the matter is this. Would Barnes & Noble really
be such a benefit to the students? Are they going to reduce their prices
below their marked cover price? And if HOOO goes under, will these price
remain magically low in response to some unforeseen competition? Are they
even likely to buy old textbooks and resell them at a fair discountwhich
Penn has usually fought even though its a clear benefit to students? Or
does Regans critical outlook fog over when the magic words "competition"
and "monopoly" are uttered by the PR wizards at B&N?
Like many others here at Penn, I love books, and I love bookstores. Philadelphias
got some terrific specialty bookstores: Whodunit, for example, and Hibberts,
and the venerable Book Trader, and even the soon-to-be-reopened Wooden Shoe.
In all of these places, the owner or clerk might point out something interesting,
or alert me to a new book on a favorite topic, or even call me at home to
let me know when a really special book came in. Bookstores are supposed
to be like that: an oasis for the thirsty mind. Ive never gotten that treatment
at a Barnes & Noble or a Borders.
--Brian Siano, Systems Coordinator
Center for Clinical Epidemiology
& Biostatistics, PennMed
To the Bookstore Committee
The Bookstore Committees reference to the "free and open competition"
that would ensue with all course reading lists on PennNet is as compelling
as Microsofts contention that free and open competition exists between it,
Netscape and other small suppliers in the Internet browser market.
--Edward S. Herman
Professor Emeritus of Finance
The following was sent
to Almanac for publication as an Open Letter to the Trustees. --Ed.
On the Trammell Crow Contract
The Statutes of the Trustees of the University
of Pennsylvania state that trustees "shall perform his or her duties
as a trustee in good faith and with such care, including reasonable inquiry,
skill, and diligence, as a person of ordinary prudence would use under similar
As Trustees, on Friday November 7, you will be asked to approve a contact
that will outsource the management of Penns facilities and physical infrastructure
to a company called Trammell Crow Company. The only way that you can act
in a manner consistent with your duties as Trustees is to categorically
reject this contract.
There can be no question that the manner in which services are delivered,
and the quality of those services, do have an impact on whether and how
well Penn fulfills its mission. Yet neither you, nor the University Community,
has been given the opportunity to consider the impact of this contract on
1) Trammell Crow has absolutely no experience in managing the facilities
and physical infrastructure of an entire academic community, let alone an
academic institution as large and complex as Penn.
2) In fact, no University has ever out-sourced the management of all of
its facilities and physical infrastructure to a private, for- profit company.
3) Despite consistent promises by the administration that consultation would
take place on matters such as these, the deal was made in complete secrecy,
and came as a shock to virtually the entire University Community.
4) There has been absolutely no opportunity for the University community
to consider the implications and possible pitfalls. Not even the bodies
established by the Statutes of the Trustees, who are specifically empowered
to make recommendations to the Trustees regarding matters of general interest
to the University (University Council, Faculty Senate, Graduate and Professional
Assembly, Undergraduate Assembly) were given an opportunity to consider
the implications of the idea behind this contract.
5) The possibility of this deal was not even mentioned at the meeting of
the Trustees Facilities committee at the Spring meetingunless it was mentioned
during an Executive Session from which the student and faculty liaisons
to that committee were specifically excluded.
6) Despite public statements to the contrary, no effort was ever made to
stabilize the management of Housing and Residential Living after the resignation
of its leadership over 15 months ago. No search committee was ever formed,
and it is clear that this administration has been considering outsourcing
management of housing facilities without any attempt to improve the operations
of that department.
7) Outsourcing these services means that they will no longer be primarily
responsive to the needs of the academic side of Penn. Instead, the managers
of Penns facilities will be primarily accountable to a for-profit company
that has a ten year contract with the University, and secondarily accountable
to University officials on the non-academic side of Penn. In short, the
needs of faculty, students, and staff will be entirely subordinate to the
bottom line of Trammell Crow, and the agenda of the Penns non-academic side.
8) Trammell Crow is about to go public, which means that the level of services
received by Penn will be affected by short-term considerations such as quarterly
profit statements, rather than the long-term interests of the University.
Finally, I must bring up a rather unpleasant subjectthe undeniable aura
of conflict of interest. The facts are these: D. Michael Crow is a former
member of Penns Board of Trustees. Almost immediately after his term was
over, his company was given the contract to manage Penns non-academic real
estate interests. The deal that you are going to be voting on today comes
at a time when the value of Mr. Crows holdings in Trammell Crow Company
are at stakejust before Trammell Crow goes public. This deal has received
significant publicity in places like the Wall Street Journal, which notes
that this alliance comes at a time when universities "are stepping
up their cost cutting efforts...real estate could be one of the most promising
areas for cost savings."
From Trammell Crows perspective, the Penn contract represents a chance to
break into a new business just as the company is preparing to sell stock
to the public in an initial public offering expected in early November.
To get its foot in the door, Trammell Crow is giving Penn an unusual $26
million dollar upfront cash payment: "We view [the payment] as investment
frankly to get started in the higher education marketplace...Over the next
five years, we think we can go from one to 16 in the University market too...".
Now, I dont know how much money D. Michael Crow stands to make if Trammell
Crows public offering is successful. However, for you as Trustees to approve
this deal at this time, without first determining how this deal happened
to come about at this time, would be irresponsible.
Frankly, I dont know if the Trammell Crow deal is in the best interests
of the University, and neither do you. What I do know is that no genuine
effort was made to find ways of saving money without ceding control of facilities
management to an outside company, and that (except for a small handful of
University administrators and possibly some Trustees) no one, including
yourselves, was ever given the opportunity to reflect on the risks and implications
of this deal, not just for Penn, but for higher education in general.
The Statutes of the Board of Trustees tell you that you have a duty to act
as a person of "ordinary prudence." It would be wholly imprudent
for you to approve this contract under these circumstances. As a member
of this University community, I strongly urge you to categorically reject
it. I also urge you to appoint a special committee consisting of Trustees,
faculty, students, and staff to look into the consultative and decision-making
process at Penn, to prevent further occurrences of this kind of secretive
and unconsidered decision-making.
--Paul Lukasiak, Office Assistant,
Graduate and Professional
Response to Mr.
The purpose of the Universitys proposed
ten year contract with Trammell Crow is to introduce increased quality and
efficiency to the way we maintain our current physical infrastructure and
plan for the future. The decision to contract with Trammell Crow is driven
by three factors: a belief that the University does not need three separate
organizations managing our facilities infrastructure (facilities management,
residential services, University City Associates); a recognition that the
increasingly competitive environment in higher education requires us to
look outside the academy for new ideas and innovative techniques to improve
service and contain costs; and the fact that our students, faculty, and
staff are rightly demanding new levels of facility management services at
Penn. Through working with Trammell Crow, we will be able to provide higher
quality services with more effective processes and structures.
University City Associates (UCA), Penns fully owned subsidiary, is already
operated under contract with Trammell Crow Corporate Services. Our experience
with Trammell Crow throughout this 14-month time period has been excellent.
However, it is true that the University of Pennsylvania represents Trammell
Crow Companys first full scale entry into higher education. The firm has
created Trammell Crow Higher Education Services Inc. (TCHES) in order to
properly service Penn. TCHES, which will locate its headquarters in West
Philadelphia, will bring to Penn the expertise Trammell Crow has gained
through managing nearly 300 million square feet of office, R&D, retail,
and warehouse space for clients such as Nations Bank, Baxter International,
We believe the Trammell Crow contract supports both the short-term and long-term
interests of the University. The principles outlined in the October 8th
letter of intent were discussed with members of the Executive Committee
of the Board of Trustees, the deans, and other University officers. We have
also conducted 15 focus groups over the last several weeks, both in open
forums and in schools and centers. The goal of these focus groups has been
to provide the University community with an opportunity to communicate their
facilities related needs directly to us and to Trammell Crow. This input
has been invaluable to us as we shape the terms of the contract. The principles
of the final contract, currently being negotiated, will be submitted for
approval by the Board of Trustees at the November 7 meeting. If approved,
we anticipate the transfer of management to Trammell Crow to occur on March
During this time of transition, the Universitys focus will not be sidetracked
by the ridiculous and baseless claims of conflict-of-interest against individuals
who have been loyal supporters of Penn. Instead, our focus has been on the
future well-being and income protection for the approximately 180 Penn and
UCA staff impacted by this contract, and on consulting with the University
community. I have met in small groups with most of the employees impacted
by the initiative, and have established an "open door" policy
to meet with those who have not been available to date, or who wish to continue
Penn staff who transfer to Trammell Crow will not have any out-of paycheck
loss in their paychecks. Additionally, they will receive the same tuition
benefits for their current dependent children as Penn staff receive, as
long as they remain on the Penn account. Trammell Crow will provide domestic
partner benefits as well as the same paid holidays as the University, including
the special holiday vacation. A partial list of economic and service benefits
for staff who transfer to Trammell Crow and remain on the Penn account follows
The contract with Trammell Crow makes good sense as it allows us to fully
exercise our fiduciary responsibility to continuously improve service quality
and efficient use of resources in facilities management, while at the same
time providing meaningful employment opportunities for the staff affected
by the change.
--John A. Fry,
Executive Vice President
Return to:Almanac, University of Pennsylvania, November
4, 1997, Volume 44, No. 11