SBCC to decide if teachers should profit from materials they assign

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Eric Evelhoch, Associate Editor

The Academic Senate grappled with whether to act on the issue of instructors receiving monies for assigned class materials in one of their final meetings of the year on Wednesday, April 27.

Since October, the senate has considered a draft resolution which would put into motion the process to codify that City College instructors may not receive profits or royalties from materials they assign to students in classes which they are “Instructor of Record” for.

The resolution draws on guidance from the American Association of University Professors regarding the perceptions of conflict of interest for instructors assigning course materials.

“The instructor will always have the freedom to assign materials that they author, or feel as though they need to assign,” Academic Senate President Raeanne Napoleon said. “The question comes down to ‘Are we okay as a California Community College, knowing the populations that we serve, are we okay with compensation to faculty for publishing materials or offering materials?”

The resolution is based on similar resolutions and policies from SUNY Buffalo, William & Mary and the University of Utah, which were compiled by Senate Vice President Ana Garcia.

“There is mixed support on the topic [from my division], it is recognized that instructors are in a better position than perhaps anybody else in the world to create materials that is unique to their course…If they do charge, they very often charge less than publishers would charge,” said Robbie Fischer, a senator representing the sciences. “There’s also a big voice in my division that says those works could be created with no charge…We don’t want to create the appearance of a conflict of interest, because that erodes student trust and professional regard.”

Additional elements of the resolution also include requesting that an existing sub committee create professional development for faculty members to increase knowledge of low or no-cost textbooks, adding additional guidelines for how students purchasing educational materials are processed and preventing charges for certain assignments such as homework, tests and quizzes meant for grade tracing.

“I think it’s reprehensible for faculty to be making huge profits from our students by selling materials that they created that in many cases do cross that line, in my opinion, between what is the course content we create and are compensated for as part of our jobs, and what is something external to that,” Ellen Carey, a senator representing Educational Support said.

“The principles and best practices that other colleges and universities have implemented need to carry the most weight in this decision, rather than the personal reasons or opinions of someone who is actually profiting in this way.”

Napoleon emphasized how faculty members would be affected by the policy change. She said she was mindful about the potential appearance of this policy being ‘forced through’ as her term ends.

“Some of our faculty are earning thousands, tens of thousands of dollars sometimes, in this way,” she said. “Even though it’s been floating on our agenda all along and people should be paying attention, I don’t think we should try and ‘crash, bang, boom’ this through, this does not need to be resolved under me.”