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Course packet costs stir further debate

Kaitlynn Riely | Thursday, November 1, 2007

The conversation about high course packet prices continued at the Student Senate meeting Wednesday, as senators failed to pass a resolution that encouraged professors to choose electronic reserves over course packets as the primary means of disseminating readings.

Though the resolution did not pass, it will be discussed within the Senate Academic Affairs committee and may be reintroduced in a future Senate meeting.

The Senate has been discussing the issue of course packet prices for the past several weeks.

At their Oct. 17 meeting, senators passed a resolution recommending that course packets no longer be sold exclusively through the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, but rather from copy centers around campus. In past years, course packets have been sold from copy centers, such as those in Decio and O’Shaughnessy Halls. This year, all course packets were sold from the Bookstore, which added a markup for profit.

At the Oct. 17 meeting, Carol Hendrickson, the chair of the Senate Academic Affairs committee, presented the results of a survey, which found a majority of students unhappy with the increased costs of course packets.

The senators unanimously passed a resolution two weeks ago that encouraged the University to revert to the former method of selling packets from various copy centers, rather than the Bookstore. The Oct. 17 course packet resolution was “unofficially handed” to the College of Arts and Letters after it was passed, Hendrickson said.

“It looks like [the College of Arts and Letters is] going to make the ‘not selling the course packets from the Bookstore’ recommendation to the University,” she said.

The Senators were less receptive to Wednesday’s resolution, which said that most of the student body is “very dissatisfied” with the higher costs of the course packets and that a majority of students are “somewhat to very supportive” of switching from the course packets to electronic reserves as the primary way to access course materials.

The senators, after some debate, failed to gather the two-thirds vote needed to pass the resolution, with nine voting for it and six against. Eight senators abstained.

Fisher senator Stephen Bant, who gave a Powerpoint presentation about the course packet survey with Hendrickson at the last Senate meeting, said he supported the resolution’s objective to encourage professors to increase use of the electronic resource, known as “e-reserves.”

“E-reserves, we kind of look at it as the future coming,” he said. “A lot of things are going electronic.”

The resolution states that the University Library is “willing and able” to put course materials on electronic reserves, and that it is also “willing and able” to cover current and future copyright costs for the materials.

The resolution says a switch to e-reserves would be more environmentally-friendly, since it would cut down on paper usage.

“More than anything else, the other benefit of e-reserves is that it’s more environmentally-friendly, because we don’t have the paper waste of thousands of course packets,” Bant said.

Some senators disagreed with the idea that e-reserves would be more environmentally-friendly, giving anecdotal evidence that many students print articles from the Internet to read the hard copy.

Bant defended the resolution’s stance.

“Not everyone is going to print off every single article, so in the end it should be less paper use,” he said.

Other senators argued that increasing use of e-reserves would mean students would have to increase their print quota, which allots $100 for printing at the beginning of the school year.

The Academic Affairs Committee is preparing a resolution to suggest that students be allowed to increase print quota online in the same way that Domer Dollars can be added, Hendrickson said.

The overall objective, some senators said, should be to decrease costs for students.

“I think the ideal is really to go back to the old way, the way it was done before it got put to the Bookstore,” said Sorin senator George Chamberlain.

At the end of the meeting, Siegfried senator Jim Lockwood presented a resolution proposing an amendment to the Undergraduate Student Body Constitution.

The proposed amendment requires the student body president to attend all meetings of the Community/Campus Advisory Coalition (CCAC), a group created by the South Bend Common Council and designed to facilitate dialogue between city, university, college and student representatives.

The proposed amendment requires the student body president to then brief the Senate on the CCAC meeting and provide any and all documentation from the meeting to the senators.