U.Va. organizations campaign for affordable and accessible textbooks for the second consecutive year – The Cavalier Daily
The public interest research group Campus Action organization partners with U.Va. Library system to provide students with greater access to affordable textbooks this semester. PIRG will also work with local organizations to target hunger and homelessness in the Charlottesville community this spring.
Founded last year, PIRG Campus Action organized a campaign to Register students to vote, a campaign for to forbid plastic and has continually recommended affordability of textbooks over the past year. The organization part of a national organization that trains students to support social change initiatives in their communities.
The Textbook Accessibility Campaign is led by Clare O’Reilly, PIRG Chief Intern and third-year student at the College, and aims to make open educational resources more easily accessible to students at the University. OER are textbooks, lesson plans, lesson modules, and other educational materials available online that can be used by anyone, regardless of enrollment. According to O’Reilly, the long-term goal of PIRG is to raise funds to establish an OER coordinator who will work full-time at the library and to support professors who wish to write their own OER.
O’Reilly discussed the implications of the University’s lack of accessible textbooks in an interview with The Cavalier Daily, citing expensive course materials as a barrier to learning for some students.
“What you hear very often is that students just can’t take specific courses because they can’t afford the textbook,” O’Reilly said. “Or they’ll take a lower rating because they can’t afford to buy [the textbooks] and they can’t do the readings.
While much of the University’s student body comes from families in the top 20 percent Income — 2.8% come from the bottom 20%, according to a 2017 study study from the New York Times – O’Reilly cautioned against generalizing the student body on this basis.
“There’s a misconception that most U.Va. students don’t have to worry about things like rent because they’re well off,” O’Reilly said. from the University which is very affluent but we have to recognize that this is not necessarily the majority of students and even if that is the case it is not fair to a student who cannot afford to pay 500 $ to $600 to say [to them]”Sorry, deal with it.”
To address the issue of affordability, PIRG has partnered with the Virginia Virtual Library – the nonprofit Virginia University Libraries Consortium – which works to build an accessible infrastructure of library resources for students and faculty in higher education. VIVA collected data and personal stories from the University about the impact of course material costs on students’ lives.
VIVA has organized a course material investigation at member institutions in Virginia to gather information about the impact of course materials on educational equality. According to the survey, most respondents, or 263 of the 472 students surveyed, spent between $101 and $300 on textbooks in a semester. A smaller but significant percentage, less than 10%, spent more than $500.
Some student responses presented on the University Library website report significant stress due to the high cost of materials, lack of access to optional but recommended course materials, and having to choose between food and the manuals.
The University Library System is also working on the OER campaign and currently offers information on finding, using and creating OER on their website. The campaign had some victories, with the Student Council passing a resolution in support of PIRG’s goal to add OER as a school-wide option for all students on April 6.
This semester, the group is seeking another referendum in support of its textbook accessibility goals with the Faculty Council — a group which represents full-time and part-time faculty and senior professional research staff and advises the University on matters relating to its constituents. The student council also has its own Textbook Access Officewhich allows students to request or put books on hold to make textbooks cheaper and more accessible.
Many University professors provide PDFs of readings to students online, but some departments and courses still rely heavily on purchased textbooks.
O’Reilly looks forward to participating in other educational programs to teach students about accessible educational resources and the importance of textbook affordability.
“We’re really excited, hopefully we can make this a series just to get more student support, more visibility for the campaign,” O’Reilly said.
In addition to the affordable textbooks campaign, PIRG plans to work with local organizations in Charlottesville on a campaign to end hunger and homelessness. While PIRG remains focused on gaining a foothold on Grounds, they have also worked within the greater Charlottesville community by standing outside local supermarkets asking for donations of specific items.
PIRG plans to continue collecting donations as they launch their campaign against hunger and homelessness this year. They also hope to volunteer with local soup kitchens and shelters.
Part of PIRG’s intern and volunteer training focuses on supporting existing community efforts and partnering with established organizations such as local food banks and the university library.
“[We] I want to work with, not around, people who are already trying to help,” O’Reilly said.
PIRG regularly works with groups on and off the pitch for their campaigns. Cheryl Wilfred, Campus Relations Coordinator and sophomore at the College, said that as an activist group with many diverse campaigns, PIRG is looking for organizations doing similar activist work to collaborate with on campaigns. .
As the spring semester kicks off on Grounds and PIRG continues to establish itself on Grounds, the group has high hopes for its upcoming campaigns.
“At the end of the day, we’re just trying to make changes,” Wilfred said.