March 4, 2011

Professors late to turn in book lists

A University policy requiring that faculty post their reading materials in advance of course registration is falling short of its legal mandate, according to the registrar’s office.

Book lists for many courses continue to go unpublished during quarterly registration periods as professors fail to adjust to a new system implemented at the end of last spring to comply with the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA). The policy requires that professors post links to their reading materials alongside every course listing on the time schedules.

The HEOA, signed into law in 2008, gave colleges and universities until July 1, 2010, to meet its requirements that students have full access to the costs of their courses, including book costs.

“This textbook requirement is just one of the provisions in HEOA that aim to make the true cost of higher education visible to students and their families,” said Associate Registrar Jacqualyn Casazza in an e-mail.

But many teachers, who often don’t give students syllabi until the first day of class and may change their reading list as the quarter progresses, are either not posting syllabi at all or are not posting syllabi in time for either preregistration or regular registration. When preregistration for spring quarter ended a week ago, a number of courses did not have their lists posted online.

“The timing to complete [the book lists] is remarkably earlier than the teachers have historically done,” University Registrar Gabriel Olszewski said.

In order to encourage faculty to comply with the law, the Registrar’s Office sends out an e-mail to any professors leading a class in an upcoming quarter encouraging them to submit their book lists by fifth or sixth week. In addition to the memo, the Office of the Provost advertised the new law in a letter sent last spring to all professors and department heads.

The number of classes that provide book listings has increased steadily since the introduction of the new policy. For autumn quarter of this year, book orders were posted for 1756 out of a total of 2671 sections, according to Casazza. Before winter quarter began, 1090 out of the 1624 classes that were scheduled had book lists available online.

After teachers submit reading lists, they are posted alongside the time schedules through links to either Barnes & Noble or the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, where teachers typically place orders for their reading lists by the beginning of first week.

But more students are buying their books online, often taking advantage of Amazon’s free two-day shipping to students as well as various vendors offering discounted new books and used books. Olszewski said the Internet was changing the way students bought books, saying the dorms had seen a sharp increase in recieving packages.

Although the law was designed to add transparency to the cost of higher education, some U of C students said the biggest advantage of the law, especially at a school where textbook fees are only a fraction of overall tuition, is getting a preview of the reading list when choosing courses.

When “choosing between HUM and SOSC classes, [knowing the reading list] might have made a difference,” first-year Alexi Williams said.

Ultimately, however, the chances are slim that every class at the University will have its book lists published on time. According to Olszewski, it is not uncommon for professors to change their readings as the quarter progresses, and some teachers may require books that are not from the bookstore.

“We will never have 100 percent compliance,” she said.