Student newspaper reveals textbook prices after judge orders store to release invoices

Court says records fall under state's FOI law

NEW YORK -- A judge ruled in November that the state freedom of information law requires a community college bookstore to release its invoices to the student newspaper, despite the bookstore's claim that the invoices were proprietary information.

The Hudson Valley Community College Faculty Student Association, a nonprofit group that runs the bookstore and other campus services, turned over the invoices in redacted form to editors at The Hudsonian student newspaper, who then published a story on the bookstore prices.

Judge George Ceresia Jr. ruled he was "unable to discern any substantial competitive disadvantage arising by reason of mere disclosure of the identity of the books and each book's unit price."

The invoices listed the title of the book, the date and the price the bookstore would have paid if it had bought only one copy of the book.

The suit began after the FSA denied former Hudsonian editor Tony Gray's state freedom of information law request for the invoices from the spring 2000 semester, which he filed after the FSA refused to allow the paper's news editor to use the invoices as part of a story.

Gray said the volume discounts were readable on some of the invoices and the markup rate ran as high as 50 to 90 percent in some cases. Ann Carrozza, executive director of the FSA, said the bookstore's markup is generally 30 percent, while the industry average is closer to 33 percent.

Students reacted negatively to information in the story about the bookstore's markups, according to Michael Baker, current editor of The Hudsonian.

"The students I talked to [about the markups] weren't surprised at all, but they were quite mad," he said.

reports, Spring 2001