At UT, it is not uncommon for professors to include sources they’ve authored in their curriculum, such as translations, essays or manuals. When students purchase the sources, the professors often receive a portion of the profits. If the class is large, professors can receive thousands of dollars per semester just from selling their books to students.
Students are often unaware that professors profit directly from their purchase of course materials. When a book is listed in the syllabus or a professor recommends it, students feel like they need to purchase in order to succeed.
Students deserve to know where their money is going, especially if it’s into the pockets of their professors. Sharif Long, a Plan II and biology freshman, said he had no idea that his Chemistry 301 professor David Laude profited from the sale of a manual he both authored and recommended students to purchase.
Laude said that the manual is a paper version of the course content that is on Canvas. It also contains past exams and worksheets. It is available for $25 at the Co-op.
Admittedly, sometimes reading resources created by professors for their classes can be helpful to students. “I personally find the manual very useful,” Long said. “I use it fairly often to study for exams and to practice concepts.”
Laude said that in his experience, some students enjoy having a paper copy of the course material to take notes on and physically interact with.
As long as the professor’s source is helpful for students, Long said he isn’t opposed to purchasing a work that a professor authored.
However, Laude also said that he’s aware some students find that they prefer using the Canvas website.
If a source they’ve authored could be useful, professors should not be barred from suggesting it. However, their assessment of its usefulness could differ from that of their students. Professors are caught in a sort of conundrum. They may think a source is helpful, and some students may agree, but some may not.
In order to ensure their recommendation is ethical, professors should consider donating the profits they receive from their book sales.
“All the money I make from the manual sales goes to the Natural Sciences Council so that it can benefit my students,” Laude said.
The council sponsors events for students in the Natural Sciences College, fields student concerns and focuses on improving the college experience of students.
“Donating is a way to ensure that my students benefit from the manual sales,” Laude said.
Laude’s solution effectively solves any ethical concerns. He can recommend the manual knowing that even if student don’t find the manual helpful as he hopes, they still can benefit from purchasing it.
Donating the profits from book sales alleviates the pressure that students feel to purchase a book that directly benefits their professor. The professor still can recommend what they believe is a useful resource, and regardless of the student, they will ultimately benefit.
Zaksek is a Plan II and women’s and gender studies major from Allen.