Faculty members are concerned with the lack of students, without financial restraints, purchasing books for classes.
Professor Nahyan Fancy, an associate professor of Middle East/Comparative History, addressed his concern to the Student Academic Life Committee in February. Fancy said he feels students believe they possess “the power and privilege to not buy books.”
Fancy does not think this issue is at all because students lack the financial means to buy the required materials. “This is a separate issue,” Fancy said. “Students with power and privilege in society are the ones choosing to exercise that privilege by not purchasing the books and to think that they are okay.”
Yet, Fancy’s belief is not based on single digit encounters. He said this is a growing trend he has witnessed across a range of courses from 100 to 300 level classes.
“It is more than one or two cases. This has happened three semesters in a row now…That’s when you realize there is something more going on,” Fancy said.
Fancy recently returned from completing a fellowship, and that is when he noticed the trend. “Last semester in a 100-level class, I asked a student where his book was [and] he said, ‘Well, it’s been ordered and I haven’t received it yet.’ This was the 7th or 8th week in the semester,” Fancy said.
Fancy made it clear that he is not blaming individual students. His hope is for the student academic life committee to investigate what is happening and why is this occurring. He believes this issue is one that stems back to the No Child Left Behind Act, which promotes the concept of studying for the test.
The No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law in 2002 by President George W. Bush as an education bill reform. The law authorizes federal educational programs be administered by the states. States are required to test students in grades 3-8 in both reading and math. All students must meet or exceed state standards in both areas by 2014.
Professor Tim Good, Chairman of the Student Academic Life Committee, said the committee did discuss this issue with Dr. Fancy during a meeting on Feb. 16.
Upon review of Professor Fancy’s request, on March 6, the committee reported that action by the institution did not need to take place at this time. “Students on the committee reported that they have had courses where all the required readings have not been used. The committee concluded that we are not going to suggest any institutional actions at this time,” Good said.
Good said that if students feel that the matter needs to be brought up again, the committee will reconsider examining the issue.
Professor Fancy is not the only faculty member to share this mentality. Professor Glen Kuecker, also a Professor of History, concurs with Fancy.
“We totally understand economic necessity. Books are expensive, and some of our students may have significant economic limitations,” Kueker said, “I think the question is why is that students who might drive a 40,000 dollar car on campus are not buying books? That would be especially disturbing when a student with less fortune is buying books in a timely fashion.”
Both Kuecker and Fancy are receptive to the way students use books today.
“I’m perfectly fine if it’s an e-book. I have no problems if students have access to the book in some shape or form in its entirety,” Fancy said.
The overwhelming concern that these faculty members are expressing is the desire for students to purchase the books listed on the syllabus.
“I think the faculty has to look at this particular question, how we adapt our pedagogies to the new technologies. So, maybe students don’t buy books because it’s not their epistemic?” Kuecker said.
The Student Academic Life Committee did raise questions regarding how the library could assist in further facilitating with this, and whether Professors are productively getting students excited about reading. The committee is comprised of input from six faculty and staff members, and four appointed student representatives.
Junior Diamond McDonald is a member of the committee. For McDonald, this issue comes back to consistency in the classroom, and amongst departments. “Professors fail in being homogenous when it comes to requirements in the classroom,” McDonald said. If a professor is not upfront with their expectations from the beginning, she feels it is unfair for them to be upset with a student.
Senior and Student Body President Claire Halffield is also a member of the Student Academic Life Committee.
“It really depends on what the Professor wants out of the class and what the students expectations are for getting out of the class,” Halffield said.
Halffield acknowledges the price tag associated with purchasing text books and how this could lead to students not purchasing books. “It really is hard for some students to meet the needs, and I do know that is a reason that some students don’t purchase books. However, there are also people who don’t buy the books because they think they can get away with it,” Halffield said speaking from first hand encounters.
Ultimately, Halffield feels it comes down to the responsibility of the student. She said, “If a student decides that they don’t want to engage, or they don’t want to buy the book, and read it, and they get a C, I don’t think that’s the fault of the Professors at all. I think it’s the student.”