Faculty Senate sees difficulty in district textbook agreements

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Radio-television-broadcasting Professor John Onderdonk asked for a show of hands of anyone besides himself who was receiving quarantined email at the Faculty Senate meeting Wednesday. Other senators said email sent from student accounts ended up in their junk folders.  Hosanna Diaz

Radio-television-broadcasting Professor John Onderdonk asked for a show of hands of anyone besides himself who was receiving quarantined email at the Faculty Senate meeting Wednesday. Other senators said email sent from student accounts ended up in their junk folders.  Hosanna Diaz

Older text editions could be an option to save students money, counselor suggests.

By Emily Rodriguez

erodriguez734@alamo.edu

The Faculty Senate discussed a proposed plan to adopt a single textbook per course districtwide and debated a course of action Wednesday in the visual arts center.

The district has proposed setting guidelines to standardize textbook usage that would allow instructors to require only one textbook per course.

District officials want the plan in place by fall 2014; textbooks for the fall need to be selected by April 15.

Discipline teams representing subject areas among the five Alamo Colleges will have to work together to decide which book to require for each course.

Dr. Robert Vela, vice president for student and academic success, said in an interview Thursday that each course is restricted to one main textbook although requiring supplemental texts is acceptable.

“Supplements are perfectly fine, within reason, that are able to help supplement or augment the instruction,” he said.

“We’re fine with supplemental, but at a certain cap, so it doesn’t end up costing students so much money,” Vela said.

This college has already standardized textbooks for courses taught here.

Discipline teams have representatives from all the colleges and have been responsible for standardizing course descriptions, prerequisites and basic skill requirements.

The teams also standardized requirements for degrees and agreed on courses for a common core curriculum.

English Chair Mike Burton said this college offers 734 unique courses; about 100 of those are taught only at this college.

Textbooks for the 600 remaining courses will have to be debated among the members of discipline teams across the colleges.

Each college will have one vote per course regardless of the size or student population of each campus, he said.

Lisa Black, Faculty Senate secretary and counselor, asked if the colleges could require older editions of books to save students money.

“I’m all for an old edition,” she said. “My students paid a dollar for an edition that was one (edition) old last semester. I like the old books better than the new ones.”

Black volunteered to conduct research on using older editions of textbooks.

History Professor Thomas Settles said the agreement could cause textbook publishers to increase the cost of the required textbooks.

“Competition is the cornerstone and trademark of our economic system,” he said.

“If you have one textbook provided by one publisher and there’s no competition, they could jack the price through the roof,” Settles continued. “Students are going to get screwed over in the end. It doesn’t work for the students, and it certainly doesn’t work for us.”

Fine arts Chair Jeff Hunt advised senators that if they liked the textbook they are currently using to begin speaking with their cohorts at the other colleges.

Many senators asked what would be the consequences if they and the other colleges refused to participate.

“I wondered what would happen if we didn’t play the game,” psychology Chair Tom Billimek said.

“District would make the choice,” he continued. “All that SACS is concerned about is that faculty have the opportunity to contribute. Whether district listens to those contributions is optional.”

Hunt said he had heard from colleagues at Northeast Lakeview and St. Philip’s colleges that they have decided not to participate in working to select common textbooks.

English Professor Dawn Elmore-McCrary, Faculty Senate chair at this college, was charged by the senate to contact her counterparts at the other colleges to see how they will handle the agreement.

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