Students walking into Mesa Community College’s bookstore are immediately greeted by Patrick Regan’s “Punch Out the President” and nearly a dozen other books attacking George W. Bush.
The selection, displayed under a sign declaring “Vote 04, read the issues, decide the future,” has upset a conservative student who says it smacks of liberal bias. The display offers just two books praising the president.
“This breach of Mesa Community College’s mission and values statement is intolerable and demands immediate correction,” said John Laurie, 28, in his third year at MCC.
The private company that runs the bookstore, Follett Higher Education Group of Oakbrook, Ill., denies any bias.
“Follett has no political agenda,” said company spokeswoman Pam Goodman. “Our objective is to ensure students have access to the right textbook at the right time.”
The company, which runs college bookstores at nearly 700 campuses in 48 states and Canada, has never had a complaint like this, she said.
Titles at MCC’s bookstore include Michael Moore’s “Dude, Where’s My Country” and “Stupid White Men . . . and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!,” Al Franken’s “Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right,” Eric Alterman’s “The Book on Bush: How George W. (Mis) Leads America,” Charles Lewis’ “Buying of the President 2004: Who’s Really Bankrolling Bush and His Democratic Challengers — and What They Expect in Return,” and Ben Cohen and Jason Salzman’s “50 Ways You Can Show George the Door in 2004.”
Other titles in MCC’s bookstore praise Democrats. They include “A Call to Service: My Vision for a Better America,” by John Kerry, “Four Trials” by vice presidential nominee John Edwards and John Auchard, “My Life” by Bill Clinton, and “Living History” by Hillary Rodham Clinton.
For conservatives, there is Ann Coulter’s “Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right,” Bill O’Reilly’s “The No-Spin Zone: Confrontations With the Powerful and Famous in America,” a book of Bush quotations, and three books about Ronald Reagan.
Goodman pointed out that the company would be hard-pressed to find enough pro-Bush books to balance what critics are publishing. Four years ago, it was popular to write books bashing Bill Clinton, she said. Now the same thing is happening to Bush.
Laurie said that if the bookstore sells what’s popular, then why doesn’t it offer “Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry,” by John E. O’Neill and Jerome R. Corsi or “American Soldier,” by Tommy Franks and Malcolm McConnell, Nos. 1 and 3, respectively, on the New York Times’ best-seller list?
Goodman said Franks’ memoir is not a political book. The O’Neill and Corsi book is on back order because the initial printing was limited to 30,000, Goodman said. Bookstores around the country are waiting for copies, she said.
Laurie, a Libertarian and former Marine Corps special-operations commando, wants MCC to adopt a policy ensuring balanced political speech in the bookstore.
Laurie said he is not advocating a conservative, liberal or Libertarian political philosophy, but wants open communication and a free exchange of thoughts and ideas.
Ron Etter, MCC’s dean of administrative services, said the state Legislature recently began encouraging colleges to use private enterprise whenever they could, so MCC got out of the bookstore business. He said Follett has been a good partner.
“The store is a private enterprise and they’re doing things for an economic reason,” he said. “They’re trying to sell books.”
Etter said the school will probably create an advisory group to look at the issue, but MCC doesn’t “in any way structure what they are to sell.”
“I can understand his emotion, but it’s something we have to react to in a very judicious manner,” he said.