Waiting weeks for textbooks is unacceptable

The+Barnes+and+Nobles+at+Emerson+College+on+Boylston+St.

Media: Beacon Archives

The Barnes and Nobles at Emerson College on Boylston St.

By Editorial Board

In the midst of midterm season, some students are still waiting on one precious class material: their textbooks. 

The campus bookstore has seen severe delays this semester—so much so that people have gone weeks or months without getting their hands on the pages that house their required reading. The Beacon reported this week that extended shipping wait times ran up to a month. Some orders were cancelled entirely. And communication about the issues has been spotty at best. 

As a result of the bookstore’s new remote ordering and shipping format, it’s understandable that the order process might not run as smoothly as years past. But being months late is ridiculous and unfair to students and faculty members alike. The semester is already halfway over.

Students who did not have access to textbooks fell behind on coursework in some instances, and others gave up completely and instead sought out other online sites to deliver the books. One member of the Editorial Board canceled their order after a week of waiting and resorted to Amazon, where the price was twice as high. 

Between the pandemic and the economic crisis, money is tight for a lot of families right now. It’s reasonable for students, who often pay steep prices for textbooks, to expect to receive their orders in a timely manner. That way, their investment doesn’t go to waste. Not getting their already-expensive books in time often leaves them with no choice but to buy elsewhere and potentially pay more than they would have at the campus bookstore. The price of books, after all, does not decrease, despite the hybrid learning format and shortened semester. So those who don’t receive the textbooks (or receive them embarrassingly late) face a financial loss at the hands of the college bookstore.  

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Another key issue with the current ordering process is that there’s no way for students to track when their textbooks will arrive like they could by ordering on Amazon or other third-party vendors. Ideally, students would receive tracking updates or hear from the bookstore before sitting in the dark and questioning the status of their orders. 

Most importantly, textbooks are necessary for students to properly engage with some courses. This learning obstacle for students, which also poses a pedagogical issue for professors, comes during a strange semester. And the reality that students are not getting materials for important classes cannot be ignored.

Simply put, this cannot happen again. Systems need to be implemented to ensure this level of operational incompetence does not again disrupt the learning experience for students paying upwards of $70,000 for an education.

Students pay too much for courses and too much for textbooks to endure this delay of resources that are essential to their education. And when there are no straightforward answers from the college about these delays, in addition to the financial and educational consequences, it’s almost guaranteed that students will lose faith in the bookstore and college administration as a whole. 

For these reasons, students who experienced significant delays that prevented their learning opportunities deserve refunds on their textbooks. For the lack of transparency and service, it’s the least the college can do. 

Hopefully next semester, as the bookstore plans to return to a more familiar in-person state, these textbook hold-ups will not continue. Improvements in the ordering process should be on their way. But in the meantime, do something for students who faced the issue this time around.

The Berkeley Beacon Editorial Board is the voice of the student newspaper that looks to serve the Emerson College community with thoughtful insight into ongoings and occurrences affecting their everyday lives. The board’s positions are determined by its members. The board consists of the editor-in-chief, managing editors, and opinion editors. The opinions expressed by the Editorial Board do not impact the paper’s coverage. You can respond to a position brought forward by The Beacon Editorial Board in the form of a Letter to The Editor by email: [email protected].