Students tell trustees they want to keep textbooks

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Students and faculty question retirement incentives and protest e-books. Photo by Paula Christine Schuler

Students and faculty question retirement incentives and protest e-books. Photo by Paula Christine Schuler

By Katherine Garcia 

Seven people spoke against a new instructional materials policy to the board of trustees during the citizens-to-be heard portion of the regular board meeting Tuesday at Killen Center.

Karen Truelove, an education sophomore at Palo Alto College, began the opposition against the policy, reminding the board that Chancellor Bruce Leslie said books are dead in a town hall March 20 at Palo Alto College.

“We know that e-books have their place and there is a growing market, but traditional books are still very relevant,” she said.

She cited the Association of American Publishers, saying traditional books made up over 75 percent of sales in 2012, and the rest were e-books sales.

“You call this a dead market?” she asked the board.

Truelove then asked if the publisher was benefitting and how much, saying “So we’re handing over this juicy contract to some publisher where we agree to buy books for 65,000 students, and we don’t know the price?”

“It’s all coming from our pockets, and we have no say in the matter.”

According to the Government Accountability Office, a report issued last year stated that between 2002 and 2012, textbook prices rose at an average of 6 percent per year and overall prices of books increased 2 percent per year, she said.

Truelove said the report stated while used textbooks and e-books are more affordable, their prices are directly linked to new textbook prices, adding that all it takes is for publishers to raise the prices.

Love asked the board to disclose the average price per e-book students will pay and the expected beneficiary of the cost.

She said a publisher would be happy to have a $65 million contract for 65,000 students paying an average of $1,000 a year for books.

She suggested the board chair and the chancellor meet with a group of students at all the campuses to determine alternatives.

Julian Itwaru, information technology sophomore at Northwest Vista College, said he spends more than eight hours a day studying in front of a computer screen to maintain a 3.79 GPA, and said he needs a textbook to relieve his eyes.

He asked the board why they wanted to take away students’ ability to get outside sources and get a book for free.

“We’re paying for this; you’re not,” he told the board. “Stay out of my ability to get my textbooks.”

Alexis Morrow, a liberal arts freshman at Northwest Vista College who started the instructional materials petition, spoke to voice not only her opinion but “thousands of opinions.”

She said the proposal is “an effort to emphasize the profitable aspects of and standardize our education.”

“I do not believe this decision was made out of greed or spite. Rather, I believe it was a decision that was made out of a lack of communication and a huge disconnect between students and the administration.”

She said students want to choose where and what form textbooks are purchased.

“According to their values and mission statements, the board puts students first,” she said. “I’m here to be sure they know what we need.”

She said students need to have purchasing

options, such as renting a book, borrowing it from a friend and even accessing it through the library.

Morrow said she wants what any student expects from a good college: an individualized education taught by a teacher who chose a textbook because the teacher thought it was the best option available, “not because a small committee chose the book and shoved it into the curriculum.”

“How am I supposed to receive an individualized education from a teacher who is giving a standardized lecture?”

She said she wants the freedom to choose where to buy a book, giving an example of paying $12 for a textbook, while the publisher’s ebook price was $50.

“We want the board of trustees to involve us in our education,” she said. “We want you, the board members, to consider our concerns about our education. So please stop the instructional materials proposal and work with us to better our education.”

She then placed 1,506 signatures from students to the left of the desk of Chair James Rindfuss, District 9 trustee.

Mariano Aguilar, English professor at this college, said the proposal violates state and federal law.

He said Texas House Bill 1096 says students are under no obligation to purchase textbooks from a college-affiliated bookstore.

He also cited Section 112, Subsection F of the amended Higher Education Opportunity Act, which states that institutions must notify students of information on programs regarding the sale and rental of textbooks and used textbooks, available textbook buy-back programs and available alternative content delivery programs.

He said the board should listen to students who say they can’t afford e-readers, laptops or the Internet.

Aguilar surveyed his four English classes two years ago and said about 24 percent of students didn’t have Internet or a computer, and he said a U.S. Census report from 2008-2012 said 20.1 percent of this city’s residents are below the poverty line.

Ashton Condel, Northwest Vista journalism sophomore and chapter president of MOVE Vista, spoke on behalf of MOVE San Antonio (Mobilize, Organize, Vote, Empower San Antonio), which empowers young people.

He said the grievances students have and the board’s rationale behind the proposal are understandable, and meeting in the same room can help bridge the disconnect between both sides.

Simon Sanchez, a Palo Alto College music sophomore, said college is where you go to find your voice.

“I refuse to have my voice and my simple freedom of choice taken away,” he said. “We need to compromise.”

Sandra Hood, a retired Palo Alto librarian, said she feels strongly about students’ need for choice.

She said using textbooks and e-books are different learning processes.

“You can’t assume everybody thinks like you do,” she said.

Madelyn Martinez, pre-nursing and international studies freshman at Palo Alto, said she prefers textbooks because she’s had insomnia since she was diagnosed in the sixth grade. She hopes the board considers not phasing out textbooks for those like her with medical conditions.

The chancellor said after the session, “We hear a lot from students that they’re upset because they don’t feel the materials are relevant to what they want to learn.”

He said having all students purchase materials through the Alamo Colleges saves money and “if we don’t do that, we’re not going to get the price as low as it can be.”

The chancellor said he is willing to continue the process of talking to students.

“And I’m looking for great suggestions to those issues and if people can come up with a really, really good suggestion that benefits most students, then I’m very open to it,” he said, adding he had yet to hear a good alternative.

Morrow said in a phone interview Wednesday that she is still collecting signatures “in case we have another chance to speak with the board or we need more voices.”

To find the board members’ email addresses, visit and click on the photo of the trustee to email under Board of Trustees.

To sign an online version of the petition, visit


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