SGA wants free textbooks for students. Here’s how they’ll do it


illustration by Julia Poage, staff illustrator

This semester, Student Government Association (SGA) has continued its open educational resources (OER) initiative through a committee dedicated to bringing more OER resources to Trinity. Sophomore SGA senator Ty Tinker has chaired the committee since early January.

OER is a national initiative that looks to reduce the price of textbooks and educational resources in general, Tinker said. As we know not all learning has to be done through a book. There is different things we watch [and] read — articles, journals, etc. What OER seeks to do is to consolidate all of those resources into one place, including textbooks, too, and make them all free.

OER was originally brought to SGA in 2016 by Trinity alumnus Nick Shockey, class of 2009, who worked the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) at the time.

In a 2016 interview with the Trinitonian, Brenna Hill, SGA president at the time, discussed how SGA was working mainly to make professors aware of cheaper textbooks that OER offered.

“We really just want professors to, at first, just consider those books, to take a look at them and look at the quality, because they’re really high-quality textbooks,” Hill said.

OER has already been implemented in several universities across the nation, such as the University of North Dakota, the University of Connecticut and several other schools in California. Though OER has had difficulty getting its message out, Tinker believes that the rising cost of textbooks will pave the way for change nationally and here at Trinity.

“One of our first and main goals is to start a campaign by the end of next semester, so, you know, have hashtags and groups coming together and looking to figure out what OER is and how it could help Trinity. Tinker said. Its meant to be a supplement, especially where teachers are seeking to make their textbooks and information affordable.

The current SGAs focus on OER is an extension of work done by the previous two administrations. Senior Nick Santulli, 2016 SGA president and current senator emeritus, explained how the previous administrations handled the topic.

We kinda thought about things SGA could do bring OER to campus, so we developed a fact sheet or a sort of pitch in conjunction with the Board of Visitors that compiled facts about OER like students benefits as well as [troubleshooting] potential concerns of faculty members maybe about quality or availability of resources, Santulli said. Then we also established an OER outreach team.

OER is a program that must be adopted by professors on an individual basis. Dania Abreu Torres, Kevin Nickels and Kevin McIntyre are professors at Trinity that have already adopted OER due to the work of last years SGA administration.

According to Amulya Deva, junior and current president of SGA, this years committee intends to enact more widespread change throughout campus and bring about larger results to previous years through more pragmatic organization and a larger focus on faculty acceptance of OER.

There wasnt a lot of structure to committees last year in terms of what they were expected to do and goals, Deva said. So the thing that really makes this year different is the fact that we are putting in things like, We expect at least one professor from each department to be contacted by this date, and These open educational resources to be pitched to this class, so its more likely that professors will adopt [OER].

Tinker has hope that, through this years committee, the student body and faculty at Trinity can become more aware and knowledgeable about OER and can sow the seeds for a future at the university with more affordable educational resources.