Wednesday, October 21, 2015

link: Professor punished for not assigning dept chair's textbook

Uhh, what the fuck??

Prof Poopiehead


  1. Almost as much as the abuse of power, I note the Chronicle's barely restrained glee at uncovering faculty malfeasance. They love this stuff, because it gives their admin and consultant constituencies the leverage they need to deskill and remove autonomy from faculty.

    In the name of protecting the academic freedom of the individual, of course, until it becomes clear that the solution is a layer of administrative oversight which overrules individual pedagogic choice.

  2. Maybe the department head was unhappy about the potential sales, and corresponding royalties, that would be lost by not assigning the book.

    While working on my Ph. D., I audited a course. I don't think it was coincidence that the required texts were written by the prof himself.

    1. one of my favorite profs did assign his own text for class, but

      1. it was a very good text
      2. he refunded every student the royalties he'd get. (about a buck each)

    2. #2 is a useful short lesson in the economics of publishing to boot.

      I've also heard of proffies donating the sum to charity (perhaps to avoid running afoul of rules about monetary transactions w/ students). It might be hard to pick a charity that pleased everyone, but the school's own scholarship fund would probably do.

    3. My PhD supervisor produced a textbook that the publisher described as "a bestseller", and went into a 2nd printing. His royalties from the 1st printing? About 20 dollars.

    4. How does he make any profit?


  3. Aren't there laws in Great Socialist State of California to prevent this?

  4. In our department, some courses (the "business calculus" and three semester calculus sequence have a "department book" that is chosen by the curriculum committee and the department, and the other courses are "instructor choice".

  5. From the linked article:
    University officials declined to comment to the Register, but the newspaper quoted the university’s letter of reprimand as saying: “You acted contrary to department policy when you did not use the single assigned textbook for MATH 250B sections."

    Fuck your department policy.

  6. This shit always annoys me. One of my books was a writing textbook, and yes, when that thing was in print I used it in my own classes. It was exactly what I needed for the particular classes I taught. I have no regrets over that. (That it was smaller and less expensive than its main competitors made me feel a bit better as well.)

    But I also was a writing director and it would never have occurred to me to suggest my own book for anyone else to teach. In fact, I had a list of suggested texts by other authors that advanced teachers could choose from. Now I had pals who used my book on their own, but I don't believe they were doing it to line my pockets with that textbook gold...or at least if they did they never extracted any payback from it!

  7. While I know this varies a good deal by department/discipline, and there are some arguments for common texts, chosen in the way Harriet describes, or at least a list of recommended texts of the sort Cal describes, especially when there are a lot of adjuncts hired at the last moment, this comes under the category of things that, to me, equal academic freedom. At least for experienced instructors, the freedom to design and revise one's own curriculum, including choosing the text, or, barring that, at least participate in a decision by which all involved agree to abide, seems basic. But both publishers and administrators seem to envision a future of "course packages" produced and overseen by large entities, with instructor freedom severely limited in the name of quality, consistency, measurability, et al. If that future comes to pass, we're going to lose a lot of human creativity that currently goes into creating and revising individual courses, and I'm going to want out very, very badly.

  8. One of my high school teachers taught from his own textbook. He was a damn good teacher, and it was a damn good textbook. I'd kind of forgotten about that till I found the book in a crate in my basement a couple of weeks ago. It's one of the only texts I kept from my pre-grad-school days, so that tells you something.

    Dude was not getting rich off it. He went to the effort mostly because he gave a shit and wanted other people to give a shit, too.

    And a big YES to what CC and CC and everybody else above them said.