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Leaders address course packet costs

Kaitlynn Riely | Thursday, October 18, 2007

Recognizing student dissatisfaction with high course packet prices this semester, Student Senate unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday recommending course packets no longer be sold at the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore but instead be sold at existing or future campus copy locations.

Course packets have been sold in the past at copy centers around campus, including shops in Decio and O’Shaughnessy Halls. This semester, all course packets were sold from the bookstore. Articles in Scholastic magazine and The Observer have reported student unhappiness with the price increase for course packets, a change which resulted from the bookstore’s markup for copyrights and profit.

Senate Academic Affairs chair Carol Hendrickson researched the issue for the past several weeks. She and Fisher senator Stephen Bant presented the results of an e-mail survey they conducted in a PowerPoint presentation to the Senate.

The survey was e-mailed to a random sample of 800 students from all four classes, with 272 responding. Of the respondents, 67.5 percent said they were very dissatisfied with the cost of their course packets. Another 15.9 percent said they were somewhat dissatisfied with the cost. Responses were also charted omitting the freshmen response, since they could not compare the price they paid for course packets this year with previous years.

Without freshmen input, the percentage of people very dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied with the cost of course packets this semester was 88.3 percent.

The survey also asked students what they thought about the convenience of purchasing all books and course packets at the bookstore, rather than at copy centers around campus.

Of the respondents, 34 percent said it was essential or very important to have the convenience of purchasing course packets in one location rather than many copy centers on campus. Thirty-four percent said it was somewhat important, and 32 percent said it was not important to have all the course packets available at one location. When freshmen responses were omitted, 25 percent said it was essential or very important to have one-stop shopping, and 75 percent said it was somewhat important or not important.

“Students prefer lower prices to one-stop shopping,” Bant said.

The ability to charge course packets to a student account was deemed essential or very important by 39 percent of respondents and somewhat important or not important by 61 percent of respondents.

The option to charge purchases to a student account was given as one of the reasons to sell all course packets through the bookstore, the resolution said.

“However,” the resolution reads, “the capability to charge to student accounts could be added to existing campus copy centers.”

Sorin senator George Chamberlain commended Hendrickson and Bant for their work on the survey and the resolution.

“I think it’s really important for the student government to do important, meaningful things for the student body,” he said.

Hendrickson and Bant will present the resolution to the Arts and Letters Course Packet Review Committee at its meeting today, on which they are student representatives. Hendrickson also plans to forward the resolution to Dan Skendzel, the director of administrative services of the office of vice president for business operations. Hendrickson said Skendzel is directly in charge of the course packet process.

“They don’t have to go with what we say,” she said. “It’s just a recommendation, saying what the student body thinks.”

She said she hoped the Senate’s resolution could influence decisions about where course packets will be available in the spring semester.

The survey also asked for students’ opinions about making more readings available through electronic reserves. The Academic Affairs committee hopes to present a resolution regarding electronic reserves at the first Senate meeting after fall break, Hendrickson said.

In other Senate news:

u Student body president Liz Brown and vice president Maris Braun will make a presentation to the Board of Trustees today in Saint Liam Hall. They will discuss issues surrounding the ordinance recently passed by the South Bend Common Council and future community relations initiatives, Braun said.

u The student government will organize Sexual Assault Awareness week Nov. 12-14, to coincide with the performances of Loyal Daughters.

u The Residence Life committee is exploring expanding Domer Dollars off campus and talking with Food Services about holding free laundry nights, said chair Mariana Montes.

u The Oversight Committee passed a resolution that amended the Student Body Constitution to include the Student Union Endowment and to change the amount allocated from the Charity Fund to the Rector Fund from $35,000 to $60,000.