Lettidor: The Problem with the Proposed Textbook Policy

Dan Lewis –

There is a lot of commotion on campus ever since the revelation at the Farley Forum that there will soon be a mandatory $620 fee added to each of our tuitions to cover the cost of renting textbooks through a new provider, Rafter. Students are upset, and rightly so.

First of all, the students had hardly any input into this decision. The biggest issue on this campus, in not just my opinion, but in the opinions of a great deal of students, is the disconnect and lack of communication between the administration and the student body. When members of the administration asked then-Student Body President Jasper Brown what he thought about such a policy nearly a year ago, he warned them of how the students will react. Their solution was to put three, only three, students on their committee to select a new textbook provider. These students were unaware of the administration’s attempt to completely change the policy regarding textbooks and it was clear that the administration had had this change in mind from the very beginning.

If the administration had been serious about wanting students’ input on this major decision, they would have asked more than three students. They would have put out a survey similar to that which I made on the behalf of the Student Senate recently, which has received almost 660 respondents, 93 percent of whom disapprove of the proposed change in policy. The administration should have put out a survey like this six months ago and they should have held the forum on the policy far earlier as well. If students had known about the direction the college was going to take months ago, we could have told the school about our issues with the change and we wouldn’t be in the position we now find ourselves in.

Furthermore, this policy, while meaning to help all students by providing books for everyone, presumably thus increasing the likelihood that a student will read, learn, and then improve the learning environment, will not actually play out in such an idealistic manner. Just because you put the vegetables on a child’s plate does not mean that the kid will eat them. If a student is not reading or even obtaining their books, then clearly there is an economic issue–which can be helped through the Richard Maye Textbook Scholarship Program or the Student Senate Textbook Exchange Facebook Page–or a commitment issue–in which case they should probably not be attending such an academically-challenging institution such as Illinois College. Regardless, a student not having their required texts affects me very little and doesn’t affect my academic experience whatsoever.

According to that same Student Senate survey, 88 percent of students pay less than $300 on books a semester. In fact, 70 percent of students pay less than $200 for books. Only 12 percent of students pay over $300 on their books, thus suggesting that only 12 percent of students will actually save money or break even compared to previous semesters after this policy is enacted. Personally, as a double major in two social sciences, I have never paid more than $150 on textbooks in one semester, and I still own and refer to nearly all of them. This change in policy will more than double my cost for textbooks and I will have to work approximately 75 hours at IC to pay off that debt.

At the end of the day, this contract is all but signed and ready to go. Provost Tobin, Vice President Williams, and President Farley have determined that this is the best course of action for the school. The fact that they made this decision without consulting with more students and acquiring empirical evidence that this policy will be successful and not detrimental to students is far beyond concerning, it’s outrageous.

Many of us will attend the Forum on Monday, February 2, and some of us will even ask questions and raise concerns. But nothing will happen. The decision has been made; the Forum is a courtesy, nothing more. If they wanted our input, they would have asked months ago.

Instead, Illinois College will move forward boldly with their grand experiment, without any data or input from students while using their money and incorrect assumptions. I’m not holding my breath.


Dan Lewis


**UPDATE: I attended the Forum Monday morning and was very pleased with the turnout. A lot of students attended and raised their many questions after a short, unconvincing presentation from the few members of the administration. While the questions were many the answers were few, as Dean Tobin and President Farley dodged questions throughout the Forum. It was clear from the presentation that this policy is moving forward and it was clear from the students that they are not happy with it. President Farley even admitted that they slipped up in not allowing for more student input. We’ll see what, if anything, comes next.

Dan Lewis, from Mahomet, Illinois, is a junior majoring in history and political science at Illinois College. Dan is Editor-in-Chief of The Rambler and Student Body Vice-President. Dan also serves on multiple student-faculty committees and works in the College’s Archives.

Dan Lewis


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