USF and Einstein’s How I Got an A – a company that sells class materials provided by student note-takers – is caught in a dispute over the appropriateness of the business, as outlined in an article in Wednesday’s Oracle.
The University had stated that the practice of selling class notes is a violation of USF’s Policy and Procedures manual, which reads: “notes, recordings, handouts and other material provided by the instructor cannot be exchanged or distributed for commercial purposes.”
In response to USF’s statement, Einstein’s owner Tom Bean has cited the ruling of a 2006 lawsuit filed against the University of Florida by KBP Incorporated, the parent company of a similar note-taking company. The court ruled in favor of KBP, stating, “the contents of courses at public universities, delivered in public settings, are not protected by copyright law and are not owned by the University.”
While legal precedents might favor Bean’s company, the practice of selling university class materials for a profit does not hold up in the court of ethicality.
The most obvious problem involving companies selling unapproved class materials is that it could provide a false sense of confidence to student customers. Knowing that they can simply purchase study guides for their courses could lead to students paying less attention in class or not attending at all. However, because the materials for sale are created by ordinary students – sometimes without the approval of the professor – the quality and thoroughness of the notes are not guaranteed.
The practice also goes against the fundamental goals of higher education. With easy access to study guides, students could be tempted to disregard class lectures and simply cram for course exams, resulting in decreased retention of the material.
Furthermore, the ability to purchase note packets online is simply unfair to the students that attend class everyday, take their own notes and participate in the University education experience. Should the grade received by a student who was present every day and listened attentively to the professor’s lecture be equal to the grade earned by a student who simply purchased the class notes and crammed information he or she did not obtain on his or her own?
Despite previous legal rulings in favor of Einstein’s How I Got an A and similar companies, it’s admirable of the University to continue to enforce its policy prohibiting the sale of class materials. If a student is going to pay tuition, the knowledge provided by his or her courses should be acquired in the classroom, not purchased online for a few extra bucks.