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Editorial: Enforcing book policy gives students more choices

Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 5, 1999
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The university has long had a policy requiring every instructor to list their books at the on-campus ASUA Bookstore, but students in several classes wouldn't know it. That's because some instructors consistently overlook the rule and use wide personal discretion in listing their books at a pet place, frequently Antigone Books, thus denying their students the option of purchasing the material at the on-campus store.

Using this discretion, the instructor can make their pet store the sole place the students in their class can purchase the course materials. The justification may well be noble: Supporting a brave independent bookstore, nudging their students to the cultural experience that is Fourth Avenue and an independent store like Antigone Books.

At the same time, however, students may find themselves wishing they had the option of strolling over to the campus bookstore rather than, in many cases, knowing they must walk or bike down to Antigone Books.

Now administrators are thinking of actually enforcing the long-overlooked policy and giving students that option.

The move is controversial because, unfortunately, it is associated with the storm kicked up by homophobic, uberconservative legislators against Antigone and the Women's Studies department. The legislators lead by Rep. Karen Gray (R-Mesa), most memorable for her openly homophobic views, have threatened everything from yanking support to the Women's Studies department to striking at the feminist bookstore.

Now some professors and, of course, Antigone Books owners are decrying the promised policy enforcement. And why not? Requiring that books be listed with the ASUA Bookstore will limit the instructors' wide personal discretion in conferring preference on their favorite bookstore - favorite for noble reasons, but favorite nonetheless - and the bookstore's ability to benefit from this situation. Their cries are amplified by the heavy-handed fumbling in the state legislature which precipitates predictions that the book-registering requisite may be a pretext for screening booklists. This is intolerable and as untenable as the legislators' bluster about the Women's Studies department.

Opponents also claim that enforcing the policy will mean the UA will transgress against an Arizona law protecting small businesses.

"The university has tried to bully the faculty into using the bookstore for years," policy opponent and associate history professor Laura Tabili told the Wildcat.. "They should be in favor of teachers getting the best deal for students."

This argument obscures a critical point: Allowing students the option of purchasing books at the on-campus bookstore won't kill instructors' options of still listing the books with Antigone.

It just gives students another option to choose from, rather than be limited by their instructors' personal preference.

It may be that the student prefers Antigone Books as well. There is no denying the experience of a small bookstore, especially a small feminist bookstore steeped in such a culture, and personality is very attractive. They may purchase the materials there. Indeed, instructors are still free to express just this opinion in class.

The point is, that now there is an option, and that the preference of one will not limit the options - and burden - another.

Any proud liberal - and all students - should embrace such freedom of choice.