BY RISHI SAENZ
Starting next year, law students looking to pick up textbooks face a long walk down to Harvard Square. The Law School Coop, located in Harkness Commons, which sells textbooks, clothing, and other supplies to students, is scheduled to be torn down starting the day after graduation. The Coop will be replaced by a loading dock to support the construction efforts on the planned Northwest Corner building. Once the new building is complete, the Coop will reopen at that location.
“The administration came to us and showed us the plans,” said Coop Supervisor Alan Powell. “We asked if alternate space for the Coop was a possibility, and were told that it was not. We expressed some disappointment, but on the other hand, look forward to the new space. The plans call for a significantly expanded space in the new building for the Coop. There will just be a delay for four or five years.”
The construction will also require the removal of the Bank of America ATM from the rear of the Hark. However, a replacement ATM will be installed in the tunnels under the buildings.
The extra walk may not be the only change students will see in their Coop experience. The current Law School Coop carries several hornbooks and study aids specific to law school courses. Sources have told the Record that the Brattle Street location will not carry many study aids due to their limited general interest, focusing solely on textbooks. “That kind of thing is still being decided,” said Powell, when asked about product selection. “We will be making space in the textbook department for the law school. It may be that while we don’t carry everything that’s now in the law school store, we will have a representation.”
Additionally, employees at the larger Coop, who handle a wide variety of merchandise for a variety of schools, may not be familiar with course requirements or be able to recommend materials as the current Coop employees do. Students will also need to visit the Harvard Square Staples or another store for the nearest source of highlighters, USB drives, blank CDs, and other office supplies.
Because of its predominantly law student clientele, the Coop also carries several clothing options that are specific to the law school. In addition to official Harvard Law School clothing, the Coop carries several t-shirts designed with law students in mind, including the popular “I Live in Law Law Land” and “Legally Brunette.” Many of these t-shirts are designed by Law School Coop employee Jill Anders, wife of current 3L Josh Anders. It is unlikely that law students will be able to find similar selections in Harvard Square next year.
There has also been some concern about whether the Coop and the HLS administration should have made the news more widely known to the student body. Students told the Record that some Coop employees expressed that they were “not supposed to tell the students unless they asked directly.” Employees referred the Record to a person in the university administration who was taking comments on the plan, but a call to the number resulted in being told this individual was not taking comments.
Powell tried to clear up this issue. “It’s store policy for employees not to comment to media,” he said. “We ask them to refer questions to management. So that didn’t come from the administration.” The Coop is owned by national chain Barnes & Noble.
Dean of Students Ellen Cosgrove expressed regret at these concerns, explaining that the Coop closing was not a secret. “This was announced in open student meetings when we talked about construction, so there was no effort to keep it quiet,” she said in an email. “I feel awful if there is a misimpression out there, but it was never under wraps.”
Sources told the Record the plan to close the Coop has been in the works for six months. An October Record article on the Northwest Yard plans did mention that the Coop would be relocated, but did not elaborate on the fate of the current Coop.
“I’m not happy the Coop is closing,” said 2L Molly Thomas-Jensen. “I didn’t know anything about it, and I don’t know how we should have known to go to a meeting about the construction plans to hear something pretty basic that affects everyone.”
Cosgrove also said the administration was looking at how best to compensate for the Coop’s absence. “We have explored short term solutions to the closing,” she said, “like distributing 1L books in a classroom, having a shuttle bus take students to the Square for a day each semester, or give students a list of on-line ordering options.”
Cosgrove continued, “I’m also aware that the Coop in the Square is pretty close, so this may not be an issue for a huge number of people, but we’re open to ideas about ways that we can make things easier during construction.”
Powell confirmed that Coop staff were working with the administration on accommodating student needs. “When alternative space couldn’t be found, we asked about temporary space for the beginning of the year, and that is something that’s being looked at,” he said.
The future of the current Law School Coop employees was not clear. Manager Andy Metheny told the Record his next career move was “trying out for the Red Sox.”
As the Record went to press Wednesday night, the Student Government was meeting with Dean Elena Kagan about the further effects of the construction plans on the student body. “We will continue to gather as much information as we can,” said Student Government vice-president Stephanie Wiebe, “and do our best to ensure that the students’ voices are heard.”