Textbook question added to evaluations

Students will have to answer one more question on the end of the semester teacher evaluations starting in the fall.

The Senate Executive Committee passed a proposal Wednesday seeking answers about textbook use in class.

Students will rank textbook use, on a scale from one to five, based on this: “Use of required textbook and/or support materials, if applicable, in learning the course.”

The SEC also passed a motion that will require teachers to include statements in their syllabi explaining why they chose textbooks for the particular course and any support material that will be used in addition to the textbooks.

“Students will have space to elaborate on the student evaluation forms about the use of the textbook,” said Tapas Das, associate provost for Policy Analysis, Planning and Performance.

Das said the additional question on the evaluation form will be used to gather information from students over the 2010-11 school year to determine action for future semesters.

Those actions could include students buying books at the start of the semester that they end up not using. Teachers are required to have textbooks selected 30 days prior to the first day of classes.

Emanuel Donchin, psychology professor and SEC member, said the topic of textbook affordability and usage has gone back and forth over the years but has been a main focus since last semester.

The Textbook Affordability Committee was formed with the goal to make textbooks affordable for students.

Donchin said student complaints and a push from Student Government (SG) is what prompted different faculty committees to gain an interest in the costs students pay to buy books for class.

“For students, all this discussion means is that we are paying attention,” he said. “Teachers who assign textbooks and don’t use them is bad form.”

Christopher Biemer, chair of SG’s senate committee on University Affairs, has spearheaded several ongoing SG efforts this academic year to lower textbook costs and said that the efforts will continue.

“I think this is definitely a good thing. It’s a step in the right direction, but I do think that there needs to be a constant effort to take more steps in the right direction,” he said. “This won’t mark the end of the textbook affordability issue at all, though it will help us learn more about different ways to control prices on all levels of the issue — from students to professors to administration and beyond.”

Additional reporting by Anastasia Dawson