From Jan. 7 to 20, hundreds of McMaster students participated in #TextbookBroke, a campaign spearheaded by the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance aimed at addressing and opening dialogue about textbook affordability.
The McMaster Students Union ran the campaign alongside the McMaster University Campus Store, and asked students to tweet pictures of their textbook receipts using the hashtag, “#TextbookBroke”.
To address the rising costs of textbooks, OUSA proposes that faculty instructors adopt open educational resources, which are free, openly licensed or public domain online textbooks and course resources that they can develop, share and modify.
The #TextbookBroke campaign comes in the wake of a policy paper published by OUSA on Nov. 21, which was constructed following the provincial government’s increased funding for eCampusOntario, a non-profit organization which has pushed universities to adopt OERs.
The policy paper examines OERs and how the government should continue to work with eCampusOntario. It also proposes a number of recommendations for the Ontario government, such as the suggestion that university faculty members have the financial and infrastructural capacity to develop, use and review OERs.
At McMaster, Ryan Deshpande, MSU vice president (Education), aims to spark discussion about OERs amongst students and professors at the university.
“This is why we are holding events that explain OERs to students, and also provide them an opportunity to advocate to professors through letter-writing,” said Deshpande.
With MSU Advocacy, Deshpande organized an event called “Letters to Professors: OERs,” which was aimed at educating McMaster faculty members about OERs.
“I invited every instructor at McMaster to an event where the CEO of eCampusOntario, David Porter, delivered a presentation to educate instructors about the benefits of OERs,” said Deshpande, who is also interested in working with the McMaster University Faculty Association and the University Administration to incorporate OERs into McMaster’s Tenure Promotion Policy.
Yet advocating for the adoption of OERs is not the only effort the MSU is making to address textbook affordability.
According to Chukky Ibe, MSU president, the MSU is also working through the Undergraduate Council to make amendments to the Undergraduate Course Management Policy, which determines the structure course outlines and how instructors manage their classes.
As a result of these amendments, students will be able to see course outlines at least two weeks before classes begin.
“This will allow students to better select their courses, and understand what course materials we need before selecting our courses,” said Ibe. “Students will be able to see their course materials, and make better financial and academic choices based on
the timely release of the course outlines.”
The MSU has also been working to take control of “McMaster Used Textbook Sales [All Years]” a public Facebook group created by Rachelle Ireson, a McMaster alumna and Career Development Relationship Manager at the McMaster Faculty of Engineering.
Ireson created the group, which allows students to buy and sell used textbooks,
when she was in her second year at McMaster.
“The thing that was most frustrating for me was buying all these textbooks and then taking them back to the bookstore not being able to get anything for them really,” said Ireson. “I thought there must be a better way to recycle books between students.”
During Ireson’s undergraduate career, the Facebook group exploded in popularity.
Over the last few months, Ireson and Ibe have been working to transition the page to MSU Macademics, where monitoring the Facebook group will be built into the role of the Macademics Coordinator.
Overall, the MSU continues to work with community partners and administration to keep additional costs low for students.