UCSB’s chapter of the CalPIRG, a consumer advocacy group, took a stand yesterday in support of students and their quest for cheaper textbooks, with professors from around the nation backing them up.
Don Powell, campus coordinator for CalPIRG’s affordable textbook campaign, and Associated Students External VP of Statewide Affairs Felicia Cruz held a press conference where they presented a resolution signed by over 700 math and physics professors across the nation, including five UCSB math professors. The resolution asked textbook publisher Thomson Learning to stop publishing new editions of math and physics textbooks. Powell, a fourth-year history major, said new editions of math textbooks, particularly Calculus: Early Transcendentals, are not notably different from previous versions, but are more expensive.
“The faculty are objecting to a practice that adds nothing significant to the educational experience and serves to make college even more burdensome for college students,” Powell said. “We would have no problem if they would publish a new edition if applications have changed. But most of the time textbook publishers are publishing new editions not to keep up with content or application changes, but to make money off the students.”
Powell said the aim of the CalPIRG resolution is to encourage Thomson Learning to continue publishing current editions of math and physics textbooks until there is significant change in the content, applications or teaching of these fields. He said the publisher will eventually have to yield to public pressure or go out of business.
USC alumna and campus organizer for the UCSB chapter of CalPIRG Molly Danahy said new editions of math textbooks are mostly aesthetic.
“Most of the changes are cosmetic changes based on pictures, grids, charts and graphs that don’t actually change the content but rather change the look of the textbook,” Dahahy said.
In response to the CalPIRG resolution, the American Association of Publishers (AAP) issued a press statement, in which AAP President Patricia Schroeder said CalPIRG used inaccurate data.
“PIRG continues to attempt to influence the media and public by ignoring valid research and information from independent, third-party sources, returning again and again to figures assembled by biased student volunteers,” she said.
Schroeder said the publishing of new editions of textbooks is justified.
“Although some core information might not change radically, the application of that information, or its relevance to a discussion, can change or evolve significantly, requiring new treatment in the text and in instruction,” she said.
Professors ultimately play a role in the publishing of new textbooks, Schroeder said
“Publishers respond to the demands of the market when deciding to create new editions,” she said. “Put simply, instructors want their students to succeed by having the latest information and the most up-to-date materials.”
Cruz said the fight for cheaper textbooks is an important one, and A.S. is committed to bringing the issue to the UC Systemwide Academic Senate.