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College of A&L sells own course packets

Claire Reising | Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Students can buy Arts and Letters course packets this semester directly through the College of Arts and Letters in Decio Hall, though professors may still sell packets through the Hammes Bookstore.

Some professors are also trying to help students save money by placing materials online on e-reserves, as an alternative to selling hard copy packets.

Last semester, the College’s decision to consolidate course packet distribution by selling all packets through the Bookstore met with dissatisfaction by students who found the packets significantly more expensive than previous semesters.

Robert Becht, director of Finance and Administration for the College of Arts and Letters, said that with the new arrangement, the College of Arts and Letter’s copy organization Design, Copy and Logistic (DCL) Services can sell course packets itself and still allow students to buy them at one location and pay with their student accounts. Instead of selling course packets at multiple locations throughout campus, all of DCL Service’s packets are now sold in a Decio Hall conference room.

“We made the decision to bring the retail sales back to our [operations], and it made more logistical sense to create one point for the students to come to,” Becht said.

Last semester, DCL Services produced course packets and sold them through the Bookstore to make shopping more convenient, he said.

“The rationale for switching to the Bookstore was that so the students could purchase the text books and course packets all at the same time and so they could purchase the course packets through their student accounts,” Becht said. “It was a cooperative venture through the entire campus.”

For some students, however, the disadvantage of higher prices for course packets at the Bookstore outweighed any additional convenience. In a survey conducted by the Student Senate last October, more than 67 percent of students said they were “very dissatisfied” with the course packet cost last semester.

According to Fisher Hall senator Stephen Bant, the College of Arts and Letters was receptive to student and faculty concerns with course packet prices.

“Within [the College of] Arts & Letters, they took it very seriously and encouraged DCL Services to stop selling in the Bookstore,” Bant said.

This semester, while DCL Services has stopped selling though the Bookstore, faculty still have the option to produce their course packets through Tichenor Custom Publishing or FedEx Kinkos and sell through the Bookstore, Becht said.

Students may find, however, that Bookstore prices are not as high as they were last semester.

Daniel Skendzel, director of Administrative Services for the University, said the Bookstore changed its policy of pricing course packets in order to make them more affordable for students. While the industry normally marks up copyright costs and production fees, the Bookstore has agreed to stop marking up copyright costs, he said.

“The Bookstore has been very willing to work with the campus and students,” Skendzel said. “Students should have seen a price reduction because of that.”

Some professors have allowed students to avoid buying course packets through the use of the Hesburgh Library’s electronic reserves (e-reserves) or Concourse.

Anthropology professor Susan Blum said she uses e-reserves because she believes course packets have become too expensive.

“I’m not willing to use course packets anymore because of how exorbitant they’ve become for students,” Blum said.

Blum said that in addition to saving students the price of a course packet, e-reserves give professors more room in planning what readings to use for a course.

“E-reserves is [a nice system] because it’s flexible, and we can add things as we go,” Blum said.

Instructors in the College of Arts and Letters are not the only ones who considered alternatives to Bookstore course packets. Last semester, accountancy professor Jim Fuehrmeyer tried placing PowerPoint slides on Concourse. He found, however, that despite the lower price of the electronic option, most students preferred to save time by buying the course packet.

“There’s a cost to me for everything I do myself,” Fuehrmeyer said. “What’s the cost of my time? When could you better use the time that goes to copying and printing … PowerPoint presentations?”

Graduate student Joe McKenna, who is in Fuehrmeyer’s course, said having a printed course packet made it more convenient for him to finish his work.

“It was just so much easier to buy it and have it set up for you,” he said.

However, 50 percent of the students that the Senate surveyed said they would support using e-reserves as “a primary means of access to course material,” and 18 percent were neutral about the issue. Bant said he feels that saving money is more important than the convenience of having a printed course packet.

“Although it might be inconvenient for some, it’s more inconvenient for people to pay $50 to $100 to buy a course packet that you could find online,” he said.

Instructor Christin DePouw, who uses e-reserves in her Education, Schooling and Society classes, said that although e-reserves can save money and are environmentally friendly, professors should decide which method best works for them.

“I think it depends on the class,” she said. “I think it’s up to the professor to decide.”

Becht said the choice to use e-reserves or a printed course packet is a “pedagogical decision” and the faculty will be able to choose what to do.

“Our primary business is to support the faculty and the College,” he said. “If that requires us to help support faculty in making the transition to e-reserves, if that’s what they want as a teaching tool, then we do provide scanning capabilities.”