By: Noah M. Yantis
On October 7th, Illinois College’s textbook provider, Rafter, ended operations as a business, according to a press release on their website. The statement says, “In the end, we did not have the time or resources needed to complete what we started. We wish it were otherwise. But, with the unparalleled support of our partner schools, we together created something impactful with a shared vision that we hope continues.”
This sudden departure from the market has left dozens of small colleges like IC to scramble and find a means to provide textbooks to their students.
When news broke in March of 2015 that Illinois College would be including textbooks into tuition for the price of $620 per year, the student body erupted in outrage. The result was a 150-person peaceful protest in Schewe Library on Trustee Weekend, a petition with over 600 signatures, and coverage by local media outlets such as the State Journal Register, Jacksonville Journal Courier, and WICS ABC 20 out of Springfield.
The anger of students was partially because of the new program, but also due to the fact that the administration did not gather information on what the students felt about the new program. In fact, a Rambler poll showed that over 75% of campus had a disapproving view of President Farley, Dean Tobin, and the rest of the administration.
But a year and a half later, things are different on the Hilltop.
When news broke that Rafter was out of business and that Illinois College no longer had a textbook provider, students took matters into their own hands by soliciting flyers and articles on campus urging for the return to a “no textbook policy.”
This time around, the administration handled the matter in a much better way.
An e-mail from President Farley to the campus community stated, “We are committed to all students having learning materials on Day 1 of the semester; this is the right model for IC. I am confident we will find a solution that upholds our commitment to student success.”
A recent Rambler poll showed that President Farley was correct in calling the Rafter model the best for campus. The data showed that 69.6% of the polled students believe that the textbook policy was best for the campus, while only 27.2% disagreed.
President Farley’s approval rating is much higher than March of 2016 as well, because 67.4% of the students polled believe that the President and the administration have the students’ best interests in mind.
One of the questions was how the system could be improved, with 39.1% of the students saying being able to keep the books without having to pay an extra price, and 33.7% said they wish there was an opt-out option and they could buy their own books.
An interview with first-term Provost O’Connell showed that the administration is committed to keeping Rafter accountable, and that students do not have to worry about whether or not they will have their books next semester.
“Students will have their books and resources on the first day. We don’t know how yet, but we will make it happen. The students are our number one priority.”
Provost O’Connell also commented on what the administration will be looking for in the next textbook provider, “Longevity and durability in the market are at the top of the list, we don’t want to have to make another midstream change again.”
It is clear that President Farley and her administration have improved their approach when compared to the first time the textbook policy was introduced. With the Board of Trustees on campus this weekend, a decision will be in the works, but it may not be final until closer to the end of the semester.