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Student Senate works to collect data on unethical dealings between professors and textbook publishers

Ohio University Student Senate passed a bill to address the possibility of faculty and administrators receiving kickbacks from textbook publishers. 

The bill asked faculty and administrative senates to establish rules and regulations for ethical textbook dealings. Student Senate wants to hold faculty and administrators accountable and get students involved in the conversation about textbook affordability. 

“I don’t know whether that the Student Senate has a sense that there are a lot of professors out there who are making students buy their own books or going on Caribbean golf vacations with textbooks publishers. I just don’t know,” Faculty Senate Chair Joe McLaughlin said. 

Senate’s efforts are now focused on establishing a reporting system for students about ethical procedures, so it can have data on the topic.

“I’ve definitely been in classes where I could see the potential for (unethical dealings with textbook publishers) could happen … who’s to say what’s going on,” OU Student Senate President Landen Lama said. “We don’t have data that shows it’s happening, but there’s no apparatus for people to use to report that it’s happening.”

Student Senate is being "proactive" in the bill because it is not “100 percent sure” unethical dealings are taking place, Lama said. 

“(Faculty Senate) kicked the ball in our court, and they don’t really want to touch it because they don't think it’s a significant enough of an issue for them to pick up,” Lama said. “They want data. We don’t have the data and matching that data in … five weeks is going to be tricky.”

Since the Student Senate elections only have one ticket this year, senators know who the executive members will be; that allows current senators to work with senate on establishing reporting procedures for “professorial misconduct,” Lama said.

Student Senate members, McLaughlin and Faculty Senate’s Professional Relations Committee Chair Sarah Wyatt met to discuss the policy after it was passed. 

Student Senate wants to work with Faculty Senate in the future to make sure students are participating in conversations to reduce textbooks costs, Haley Klier, Student Senate appropriations commissioner, said. 

“Maybe adding that ethical portion (to the faculty handbook) isn’t the perfect answer, at least we need to keep having students in the conversation so we know why that’s not the right answer and maybe come up with the right answer,” Klier said. 

Student Senate was inspired to address the costs of textbooks themselves during a time when the Ohio House of Representatives was working on legislation about the affordability of textbooks. 

“A legislator brought up textbook professorial ethics when it comes to (textbook affordability), things like kickbacks and dinners,” Lama said. 

Student Senate took a “moral stance” on textbook affordability by focusing on the prices of textbooks, rather than state and local taxation. Student senators did not want to take money away from the state just because it would benefit them, Matt Mamone, Student Senate Governmental Affairs commissioner, said. 

“The real issue as to why we have to pay so much for textbooks … isn’t the 7.5 percent sales tax that fuels state programs and local programs, especially here in Athens with the amount of textbooks that are sold,” he said. “The real issue here is the greed of the textbook companies who continue to mark up prices.”

Lama is the only student member of OU's textbook affordability task force and those efforts seek to get more students involved with the topic.

“More students should be sitting on that because it is an issue that affects students in such a big way because they’re the ones paying,” Klier said. “We wanted to talk to (leaders of the task force) to talk about it from that meeting and make sure that more students either inside senate or even students who aren’t affiliated with senate to have a few outside viewpoints would be really helpful.”


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