The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Faculty senate discusses one-textbook proposal per course

By Alma Linda Manzanares

Among copyright discussion, university growth and executive committee updates, the first open Faculty Senate meeting of the academic year focused attention on the possibility of the university adopting a single textbook per course.

The concern was raised to Dr. Brent Snow, university provost and vice president of academic affairs, by Ed Westermann, Faculty Senate vice president, after Snow asked the senate for any questions or issues they wanted to discuss.

The Faculty Senate is an advisory group that makes recommendations to university administrators as the voice of the entire faculty, Brian Brantley, Faculty Senate president, said.

Westermann said he received an email from Dr. Mirley Balasubramanya, dean of the college of arts and sciences, stating all sections of a given course ought to use the same textbook in accordance with university policy. “That’s an issue for some faculty members in certain disciplines,” he said. Westermann asked Snow for clarification on the policy and its intent.

Balasubramanya said Tuesday during a phone interview the idea was discussed between the university’s academic leadership, which includes the provost, university deans and vice presidents for academic affairs.

He said students and faculty are the two main parties affected by textbooks, so the leadership needs to balance the interest of both parties. He said sometimes, students have to retake a course and if they retake it with a different instructor, they have to buy a different textbook for the same course because it’s taught by a different instructor.

He said the leadership is looking into how they can make exceptions for courses on a case-by-case basis.

During the senate meeting, Snow said he recommends adopting one textbook per course. “There is no written policy yet,” he said. Snow said the recommendation’s intent is to prevent students from having to buy a different textbook if they switch a course section. “Those kinds of things happen quite often,” he said.

Snow added that textbooks ought to be departmental decisions made by faculty. “A course is not a faculty’s course, it’s a department’s course,” Snow said.

Some senators took issue with Snow’s position, arguing it interferes with faculty members’ decision-making ability.

Westermann said when the university hires tenure-track faculty members, they are saying, “We trust you with teaching a given course based on your expertise and based on your background and the nature of how the course is taught.”

Two other senators, Lorrie Webb, assistant professor of curriculum instruction, and Kathleen Voges, associate professor of management, agreed with Westermann’s argument.

Westermann added that he understands it’s a problem when a student changes course sections; however, he doesn’t expect that to happen often.

The discussion revolved around whether the policy recommendation could affect faculty members’ teaching abilities.

Melissa Jozwiak, assistant professor of early childhood education, argued against the recommendation because faculty using an unfamiliar textbook can jeopardize their tenure evaluation, which is based on meeting students’ needs.

Students can tell if a faculty member likes or dislikes a textbook, Megan Wise de Valdez, former Faculty Senate president, said.

She suggested that when the university adds freshman and sophomore courses, adopting a single textbook per course might be more appropriate. “I think the faculty who teach upper division courses should have the ability to choose their books,” she said. Westermann agreed with her suggestion.

Robert Vinaja, assistant professor of computer information systems, said he thinks faculty will be able to come to a consensus on a single textbook per course. He added that the business program already uses the practice.

Snow asked senators how looking at a textbook with colleagues is different from setting learning outcomes for students. “You don’t individually choose and select those right?” he said.

Webb said in the department of curriculum and kinesiology, students have to pass certification exams so the curriculum is aligned to the standards to pass the test and it’s not as personal as choosing a textbook.

“When you turn to textbooks, to me it is very personal. It’s about your teaching strategies, your style,” she said. “I still feel like textbooks are a more personal choice but the standards and the competencies and the SOLs aren’t. It’s easier to me to come to consensus with that because you can look outside but the textbook is my Bible in that class and so then I am tied to it.”

Snow said he likes the recommendation of having faculty come to a consensus on a single textbook per course. “But I’m hearing you pretty strongly that very few of you agree with that,” he said.

 The discussion ended with Snow stating that whatever textbook decisions faculty make, have to be decided early and cannot be changed in the beginning of the semester.

Development and Growth

In other news, Vicky Elias, Faculty Senate secretary, asked Snow to give a brief update on construction at Main Campus Building. Snow said the Central Academic Building is on target to be completed in July or early August. He added that in the 83rd Texas Legislature, funding for the new science and technology building and central and physical plant was tabled.

The university requested $79 million in the form of tuition revenue bonds for the building. Tuition revenue bonds were rejected for Texas institutions during the third special session of the 83rd Texas Legislature.

“And we’re out of space, we will be out of space,” Snow said. “So part of that question is what about Brooks? We’re going to be here at Brooks for some time.”

Brooks Campus, leased from Brooks Development Authority, is located at 2601 Louis Bauer Dr. The single building houses the college of business and several other departments.

Voges asked Snow if there was a way to have a bookstore presence at Brooks Campus so students are able to purchase scantrons. She said many students who attend classes at Brooks Campus are non-traditional students who are coming to class right after work and do not have time to stop at Main Campus for supplies.

Richard Green, Faculty Senate parliamentarian, said that Brooks Campus is not far from Office Depot, Wal-Mart and Best Buy.

Voges and Brian Brantley, Faculty Senate president, argued that scantrons and blue books are not sold at those stores or may not always be available.

Brantley said that it’s not just a non-traditional student issue because some students take all their classes at Brooks Campus. “They never have cause to go over to Main Campus so when I say go buy a blue book, they look at me funny,” he said. “There’s even a greater need for some duplication of that here, at least for basic test taking stuff, very least.”

Copyright

In other matters, Information Technology has purchased systems to automatically record classroom lectures, and is currently testing the system in six classes to address the problem of underutilization of classrooms, Green said. “We’re totally out of space but we’re only using our classrooms 3 hours a day. So when we say we’re out of space, that’s not really true, we’re out of space from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.,” he said.

Green said that the recordings will allow courses to take place during the day, and students who cannot attend the class at the scheduled meeting time can still register for the course and watch the recording at their convenience. “Our students are all non-traditional students. I don’t see any students who can come to class during the daytime; they’re all working full time,” he said.

Elias asked who owns the copyright to those recordings; the faculty or the university.

Green said if there is no agreement between the faculty and the university, the university owns the copyright because it’s being made on university grounds. “I can tell you the quality of the recording, having now made a few, is not anything I would really want to copyright and try to distribute,” he said. He said the quality and lack of editing makes the recordings “extremely tedious” to watch.

As for copyright issues, Ramona Pittman, assistant professor of reading, asked if PowerPoints, rubrics and other materials made by faculty for the students are the university’s intellectual property when uploaded to Blackboard.

Webb confirmed that materials created on campus belong to the university. “Now does any university or school come and haunt you? Probably not. Otherwise, we’d all be in trouble,” she said.

Westermann said colleagues at other schools do not upload PowerPoints because they consider them to be their intellectual property.

Jozwiak said the issue was a problem because faculty want to make them accessible on Blackboard because it supports the students learning. “So finding this negotiation where we can still maintain ownership over our intellectual property and support students is the ideal,” she said.

Green moved to establish a subcommittee to consider the issue and make a recommendation to discuss with administration. Senator Mary Mayorga second the motion. The motion passed 11-1. Vinaja abstained from the vote.

Claire Nolasco, assistant professor of criminology, and Jacob Sherman, arts and sciences librarian, were absent from the meeting.

Faculty Senate meets the first Friday of every month during the 2013-2014 academic year, except for January. As of today, all meetings are open to the public, Brantley said.

The next Faculty Senate meeting is 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Oct. 4 in Room 353 at Main Campus.

About the Author

Alma Linda Manzanares
Alma Linda Manzanares
Alma Linda Manzanares is the Editor-in-Chief for The Mesquite. She is a communications major with a passion for journalism. Alma Linda attended San Antonio College and held four editor positions: Opinion/Calendar Editor, Managing Editor, Editor and Web Editor at The Ranger, the award winning newspaper at SAC. She received her A.A. in Journalism from SAC in May 2013.

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