The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the Editor: Teachers need to reconsider textbooks

Dear Grinnell College Faculty,

My message today is simple and rather straightforward. However, in order to avoid any misconceptions, let me be very clear about my utmost esteem for all the professors and their commitment to their students. In fact, I felt so moved to write this letter to the editor because I was shocked by what seems to me a clear disregard for your students. I need not explain to anyone how unnecessarily expensive college textbooks can be. Even if you sell back your textbook, there is absolutely no way you will ever break even. How do I suggest we minimize the parasitic textbook market? Not by professors manually scanning their readings. Nor by professors diminishing the quality of their courses by limiting their assigned readings. No, I suggest something which requires a lot less effort. I suggest professors put all their textbooks on reserve. 

In my time here, there have been multiple popular student initiatives calling for professors to make their assigned readings more available to their students. Students are vocalizing a request to their professors and from my experiences just this last week when syllabi where distributed, that request is not being recognized. I am so incredibly grateful to Grinnell College for having an institutionalized means through which professors can request their class textbooks to be placed at the library. I am equally disheartened that professors which have come to teach at a college focused on social justice have not considered what it means for a student to not be able to afford their textbooks (or if they have considered it, to not be moved enough to take action). As the beginning of the year kicked off and the usual conversations of “my books cost me x amount,” I also heard a lot more of “I cannot afford half of my class books and they’re not on reserve.” As I convinced a friend to email her professors and ask them to place them on reserve, I realized that it was not as simple as I, someone whose daddy’s credit card pre-ordered books in advance, thought it was. In that email was not just a request to place textbooks on reserve but an admittance of one’s personal financial situation. My friend uncomfortably admitted, “I don’t want my professors to see me differently.” In the position of a friend, I encouraged her and tried to persuade her that they would not. Bothered as I was by the seeming aloofness of professors of which a majority have a terminal degree in their field, I continued to ask other students and was met with similar responses: “I have 34 dollars in my bank account and I can’t ask my parents for any money.”

I know that the library does not always have the budget to buy the latest edition of a textbook. However, please take the time to check the actual differences between editions and whether they’re worth 100 dollars in price difference. Or bug the administration to give a bigger budget for reserve books. Thank you to those who use slightly behind versions for the sake of their students.

Professors, please place your books on reserve. Regardless of why your student cannot or does not want to buy your textbooks, it is easy for you and saves some students a great deal of embarrassment. Of course, I want to recognize some professors who do keep this in mind and go through a great deal to make their classes affordable. I salute you. If anybody has any other suggestions through which to deal with this issue, I’m all ears.

Thank you,

Cynthia Amezcua ’14


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