Editorial: Professor’s firing for insubordination was unjustified
Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 23:09
The cost of textbooks adds up to a great deal over students’ tenures at UConn. Some classes require six or seven books costing $10 or $15 each, yet, there are Constitutional Law classes that will still require enormous books that cost up to $160. A lot of books are constantly updated for new information, so buybacks and older editions become useless.
Even if one wanted to use the library, a cost that’s included in tuition, there’s some fierce competition for the books required by classes. Sometimes it’s better to bite the bullet and just buy the textbook. Occasionally, there’s even an e-book you can buy to avoid the physical weight of books if you can’t avoid the price.
Of course, a lot of the time, a textbook is superfluous. Professor Mike Tracy at the Art Institute of California in Orange County, believes this. He taught a Photoshop class and never required a textbook, but then something happened this year.
The entirety of the Art Institute of California, including the Orange County branch, is owned by Education Management Corporation (EDMC). EDMC’s distributor, VitalSource, offers e-books through a program called Digital Bookshelf. Earlier this year, the Art Institute changed their policy to say all professors must require e-book purchases for students enrolled in their classes. These e-books are only temporary, with the code expiring at the end of the semester, and of course, cannot be sold back to the school for any percentage of the original price.
Tracy considered this policy, and then ignored it. He told his class he wouldn’t require them to buy a book he considered redundant and irrelevant to the course. Why make students buy a book they might never touch?
On August 10, the school’s president, Gregory Marick, issued Tracy an ultimatum:
“As you have been previously informed, you are required to utilize an e-book from the list…Failure to comply with this directive will result in your immediate termination of employment for insubordination.”
Tracy still refused and was fired four days later.
We salute Tracy for refusing to bow to a school policy motivated by nothing but profit. It should not be up to the school to tell a professor how to teach a class aside from rules ensuring a safe environment. Sometimes classes require textbooks, sometimes they require workbooks and sometimes they require neither. Our education system should never be owned by a business and never be motivated by profit. The moment it does, it’s time to jump ship and re-evaluate what’s important.