An independent businessman, known as “the Bookman,” is protesting the University of Manitoba’s Use of Facilities policy because it is preventing him from selling his books on campus.
John Thompson is a self-employed books seller who has been selling second-hand books on U of M campus since the late ’80s.
The policy states, “Under no circumstances will the University premises be allocated to an individual, organization or business where the purpose of the use would be in direct competition with an existing academic or administrative program or business operation.”
“For some reason, and I don’t know why, they have decided to reinforce this anti-competition thing, [in] about 2007-08,” he said.
He added then he was only allowed to sell his books during market days and UMSU events.
But Thompson explained this academic year the U of M informed UMSU that they want the policy enforced again so he is unable to get on campus.
“When I was here near the end, about six per cent of my annual income would come from this campus,” he added.
Thompson said the decision to reinforce the policy means lost income for him so he has started selling books at the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan.
“But it is a six to eight hour drive to get there and during winter time it can be dangerous to drive to those campuses,” he added.
Thompson said we live in a free market and in a competitive society and we have to get used to it.
John Danakas, marketing and communications director at the U of M, said it is a normal and accepted policy and there are a number of businesses in University Centre and elsewhere on campus that lease permanent space.
“These businesses have competed for the space in the free market, as it were, and expect protections against competition within the same general space,” he explained.
Danakas added such a business competes with university and UMSU operations also selling books.
“Many businesses would want . . . the opportunity to access directly the U of M staff, student and visitor community, but without restrictions on such access the campus could become an overly commercialized space,” he said.
Camilla Tapp, UMSU president, said the purpose of the policy is not to forbid independent businesses on campus, but to protect the businesses that are established and in place at the U of M.
She added it protects students and staff from being bombarded with numerous sellers offering the same product when the focus of this institution is on academic success.
“UMSU believes that this policy is fair as we have to abide by, but it also protects our businesses,” she said.
Noemie Passelande, an international student in the Asper School of Business, said she thinks this policy is not fair.
She added books in the U of M Bookstore are expensive and they do not sell many used books.
“If we want cheaper books we have to buy them on [the] Internet,” she explained.
She said she would buy Thompson’s books if he came on Campus.
Thompson is still working on his protest, keeping in contact with U of M’s administration and making his story known.