Debt-ridden law bookstore to close

Kelly Hildebrandt

Due to an almost $40,000 debt, the student-run Friendly Law School Bookstore will permanently close its doors on March 31.
Since the bookstore is run by students in the Law Council, they are also personally responsible for the debt. That means if creditors pursue the debt, they will target the students, not the Law School. The 10 students on the council who ran the store weren’t aware that they are responsible for the debt until this month.
At a town meeting on Tuesday, Roshan Rajkumar, president of the Law Council, discussed the closing of the bookstore and what caused it.
“This was not told to me when I ran for president,” Rajkumar said.
During the summer, law students will most likely be walking over to the West Bank Bookstore for all their textbooks, Rajkumar said.
Anamarie Kolden, a second-year law student who attended the meeting, said it’s too bad the bookstore is closing, but she is looking forward to something new.
“The bookstore just didn’t really have the money to give us what we needed,” Kolden said.
The bookstore has been a student-run non-profit organization since its beginning about 20 years ago, but the problems didn’t start until about seven years ago when there was a $120,000 surplus, said Rajkumar. He wasn’t aware of the debt until about one year ago when he became president.
Since the bookstore is a non-profit organization, the Law Council started the Loan Repayment Program with the surplus money, which helps students who go into the public sector after graduation pay back their loans.
Instead of putting some of the money aside, the Law Council put all the extra money toward the new program, Rajkumar said.
The past year Rajkumar has worked with Scott Nardi and Scott McKusick to bring the bookstore out of debt.
In July 1998, the bookstore was $80,000 in debt and two terms later, in January 1999, it was only $35,000 in debt. After the bookstore closes and all the books have been returned for credit Rajkumar hopes the amount will be decreased to $2,000.
“We realize a bookstore can’t be run this way,” Rajkumar said.
Another unique feature about the bookstore is that, until two years ago, the Law Council automatically extracted $20,000 from the bookstore’s income to fund student organizations at the Law School.
Although a long-term solution hasn’t been established, Law School officials are currently taking proposals from bookstores such as Barnes & Noble Bookstores, or H.D. Smith, the company that runs the West Bank Bookstore.
Thomas Sullivan, dean of the Law School, said a committee has been formed to make proposals to bookstores. They will analyze the proposals and hope to discuss them at the next Law Council meeting next week.
They are also looking into offering an electronic bookstore like Amazon.com, which Rajkumar said has “met with some grumblings from students.”
If an electronic bookstore is created, returning books would be difficult and there wouldn’t be any place to sell Law School items like sweat shirts, Rajkumar said.
Although Kolden uses an electronic bookstore outside of school, she said she is concerned with returning books and time constraints that an electronic bookstore might create.
Kolden said law students need to be prepared for the first day of class and students might find themselves waiting a week to get their books.
“You just can’t do that here,” Kolden said.