UAA Bookstore employees express frustration with upcoming relocation

The UAA Bookstore is moving to a new temporary location this fall.

The campus bookstore is relocating to the Alaska Airlines Center room 160. The transition will take place from Oct. 14-27. The bookstore will remain in the Alaska Airlines Center for one to two years, according to Beverly Shuford, Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services.

Enrollment Services will move from the University Center into the bookstore’s current location in spring 2020. Enrollment Services includes the Registrar’s Office, Admissions Office, Office of Student Financial Aid and Military and Veterans Financial Assistance.

“Enrollment Services’ move back to the main campus has been part of UAA’s long-term plan for a number of years. The campus master plan calls for centralizing student services near the campus core so that they are easily accessible,” Shuford said. “Moving departments out of the University Center also allows UAA to lease the space to other organizations, leveraging a revenue-generating opportunity.”

The master plan for the UAA campus was created several years ago, according to Bruce Schultz, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.

“The direction for the campus master plan was first set by Chancellor [Tom] Case and has been endorsed by succeeding administrations,” Schultz said.

“This has been our home away from home. This is where we have made a beautiful space for students and staff to use,” Kristi Michels, UAA Bookstore employee, said. Photo by John Novotny.
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Several bookstore employees are not happy about the upcoming change in location.

“Our events that we hold in our loft, that is open community-wide… it’s part of what our mission statement as a university is all about. To create a public square,” Kristi Michels, cashiering supervisor and trade books buyer for the UAA Bookstore, said.

Michels is confused as to why the bookstore was chosen for the relocation, considering the unique features that the bookstore’s current location offers.

“I question what [UAA administration is] actually going to be using this space for. I mean, they’re moving offices into a building that was created to be a bookstore. That is why we have a raised loading dock, a conveyor belt system and a freight elevator. There are empty offices on campus they could move [Enrollment Services] into. Most of their [Enrollment Services’] functions are available online,” Michels said.

The move into the Alaska Airlines Center is a logistical mess, according to Michels.

“Students aren’t going to be able to walk into the bookstore and get their textbooks anymore. They’re going to have to place an online order. We’re going to have to move it from the basement here in this building to the Alaska Airlines Center for them to be able to pick it up,” Michels said.

The Drowsy Wolf, the coffee shop located inside of the bookstore, is closing as a result of the move.

“I’ve heard a lot of complaints from our regulars. They’re all very upset that we’re leaving and not going to be here anymore. We’re one of the very few coffee shops around [campus] that’s not owned by campus dining,” Josie Tiffany, a barista at The Drowsy Wolf, said.

The bookstore staff was not given the chance to provide any input on the decision to move, according to Michels.

“It’s unfortunate and sad. We’re trying to be optimistic and make things work, but we’ve been lied to about the bookstore transformation,” Michels said.

The planning for the University Center transition began in 2018.

“We had meetings with the bookstore transformation task force who told [bookstore staff]: ‘nothing is set in stone, this is all exploratory.’ [That was] a year ago in about September 2018. Then we found out it was actually signed off for in spring 2018. [There] has just been a lot of disrespect,” Michels said.

Michels thinks that there has been a lack of communication with students about the bookstore’s relocation as well.

“We’re upset and sad that we’ve been disrespected and that the students are being disrespected. I’m not sure everyone is understanding what transparency means,” Michels said.

The bookstore employees attended a staff meeting on Aug. 14 and were told that the bookstore was moving and alternate locations were being reviewed, according to Rachel Epstein, special events coordinator. They attended another staff meeting on Aug. 29, where they were told the bookstore would move to the Alaska Airlines Center.

“This planning process involves leadership from academic and administrative areas across campus. Project planning is executed by Facilities and Campus Services, but all approval must go through the Chancellor and Chancellor’s cabinet,” Schultz said.

After 20 years of saving a small percentage of its income, the bookstore underwent a massive $1.8 million renovation in 2015. Photo by John Novotny.

Students first received a brief email on Sept. 6 regarding the bookstore move from Chancellor Cathy Sandeen titled “Upcoming UAA Department Moves.”

“These moves align with our campus master plan, which calls for centralizing student services near the campus core so that they are easily accessible. That’s a good thing, and it will be happening soon,” Sandeen said in the email.

Another email titled “Departmental Moves Update” was sent on Sept. 20 specifying when the bookstore would move and further emphasizing the UAA administration’s belief that the move will allow Enrollment Services to be more accessible.

Readers can visit the UAA on the Move website to learn more about recent departmental moves. Students are encouraged to send their questions to [email protected], where they will be used to make additions to a FAQ.