State Representative Gregg Haddad (D-Mansfield) and Senator Mae Flexer (D- Killingly) discussed the results of their legislation for Open Source Textbooks at a press conference at the UConn Bookstore Tuesday afternoon.
Open Source Textbooks are books that have open copyright licenses and can be accessed online for free by students. They can also include low cost print alternatives, where, in the case of UConn, students can spend $50 on a General Chemistry print book as opposed to the original $303.
“Those 2,000 students who are taking that course this year will save an estimated $500,000 in costs,” Haddad said. “With this information in hand, we need to act very boldly to ensure that we are making the most of the potential cost savings of open source textbooks in the future.”
The 2,000 students in question are those taking general chemistry this coming semester. One of the leaders in the open source textbook option on campus is Edward Nerth, a professor in the Chemistry department.
Nerth, along with UConn PIRG, USG and UConn Libraries have been working together to look at Open Educational Resources (OER) for all students on campus.
“It started with an innocent question that hit the rights ears and we sort of ran with it,” Nerth said. “Last Monday when the textbook was available free of charge I did not hear any complaints.”
The project has received support from the office of the Vice Provost, Sally Reiss said.
“We want to be part of the solution so we have conducted workshops and seminars for our faculty and department heads to distribute information across campus and in addition we have worked with Representative Haddad and Senator Flexer,” Reiss said. “We believe that we can make a difference in promoting the use of Open Educational Resources.”
The university received a $100,000 grant from the Davis Educational Foundation to help introduce more open textbooks on campus.
“We hope that in a year from now we can announce 10 textbooks like this and those savings would go from $500,000 to $5 million,” Reiss said. “We just get more students able to have resources.”
USG president Dan Byrd has been working on this issue for three years through USG.
“Having students involved in this process has been so important,” Byrd said. “The Undergraduate Student Government and UConn Public Interest Research Group really started this movement. We have worked together to form a committee to look at open source textbooks and have students that continue to be on that taskforce and university committee who are dedicated to move this forward.”
Rep. Haddad closed the press conference with remarks on his own experience as a student at UConn.
“I think a lot of us in this state worry that that kind of success story, of a working class family – my dad was a construction worker and my mom was a stay at home mom – couldn’t afford to put four kids through college anymore,” Haddad said. “And so when we look for opportunities to make a difference, this is one of those ways that we can do that.”
Elizabeth Charash is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.