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Published December 17, 2009, 01:15 PM

NDSU bookstore draws higher ed board member's ire

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota State University's opening of a bookstore in downtown Fargo drew the ire Thursday of a member of the state Board of Higher Education, who said it was unfair competition with private business.

By: DALE WETZEL, Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota State University's opening of a bookstore in downtown Fargo drew the ire Thursday of a member of the state Board of Higher Education, who said it was unfair competition with private business.

"We're talking about running a university, not retail businesses," Duaine Espegard said. "(The bookstore) is not going to sell student books. It's going to ... compete directly. I don't see where there was a need for it."

The store, which opened this week, does not sell textbooks and is akin to a commercial bookstore, offering best-sellers, a coffee shop and the ability to print books on demand.

It is in the NDSU Cityscapes Plaza in downtown Fargo, which has commercial retail space and 104 apartments for students, faculty and staff.

NDSU recently opened three classroom buildings downtown, which has generated significant student traffic away from the college's main campus in west Fargo.

Board members discussed the issue Thursday during a meeting by telephone conference call. Nothing was voted upon, and Richie Smith, the board's president, said the issue would be discussed at the board's next meeting in January.

NDSU President Richard Hanson declined comment on Espegard's statements, a university spokeswoman said.

Pat Seaworth, a university system attorney, said nothing in board policy or state law prohibited NDSU from opening the bookstore. North Dakota law does restrict colleges' ability to provide outside catering of meals and snacks.

Espegard said the Board of Higher Education "should put a hold on those kinds of things, or we should have some kind of a policy that addresses it."

"The next time, maybe there would be a clothing store set up downtown," he said. "I'm opposed to it, and I think if we took some time to talk about it, I think, to be honest with you, most people would be opposed to it."

Greg Danz, an owner of Zandbroz, a variety store and bookstore about four blocks away from the new NDSU store, said he had initially expected the business would be an extension of NDSU's student textbook store.

Danz said he was baffled at first by the university's decision, and said he "tended to agree" with Espegard's view. However, the store may draw students downtown, and offer a potential boost to his business, he said Thursday.

"We'll just stay positive and hope for the best," he said. "I guess I don't want to characterize it as fair or unfair. It really serves no purpose."

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