Textbook reform: Student trustee Scott Rossi aims to eliminate educational barriers

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Laura Buel

SRJC student navigates high textbook prices at the SRJC bookstore.

Laura Buel, Staff Writer

With Santa Rosa Junior College students still feeling the 2008 recession, paying for outrageously priced textbooks proves to be too much, hindering educational progression.

Student Trustee Scott Rossi knows how it feels not being able to take a class because the books are too expensive. “I’ve had to drop classes because I couldn’t afford the books,” he said. “I’m behind on my schooling because I couldn’t afford the books.” He joked about figuring out what classes one can and cannot take like “deadly algebra.”

Rossi is not alone on wanting to stop the overpricing of textbooks and has proposed a textbook reform resolution for SRJC.

In the resolution, the SRJC Student Government Assembly first recognized the hard work of bookstore employees, library reserve desk workers and the efforts and consideration of the faculty; and claims the resolution is not an ‘indictment’ to any group on campus. “Instead, the systemic deficiencies, inequalities, power imbalances and intersectional oppressions must be confronted if we are to maintain our core values and ensure equal access to education for all students,” the resolution states.

Rossi said textbook prices have risen as much as 1,041 percent since 1977, leaving many students with no options.

“Sometimes I don’t buy the books and have to struggle by going to the library and checking them out, but it’s only for like two hours at a time,” said SRJC student Ana Vazquez.

The textbook reform resolution states it’s up to the student body “to encourage California Community Colleges, CSU and UC-level schools to all reject the idea of a ‘for profit’ textbook model.”

The resolution calls on faculty to “strive to center the use of older editions and work with the bookstore textbook coordinators to ensure older editions are available before considering new editions where texts are still academically sound.”

Rossi said there are perfectly good textbooks that teach the same material. However, because they don’t have the same aesthetic appeal as books sold through textbook companies, many instructors do not approve of them.

Reasonable options found in the resolution for faculty to stop ‘for profit’ textbooks companies include assigning a reasonable number of textbooks, requiring only texts that will be used, using e-books, refraining from accepting free textbook materials to share the costs with their students and collaborating with other staff members to create their own texts.

The resolution states the Textbook and Instructional Resource Committee is encouraged to negotiate prices with publishers and attempt to reduce markups, including the purchase of more affordable international editions.

Rossi brought up the idea of a ‘book strike,’ to show textbook companies students will no longer put up with book price increases.

Rossi said as an employee of the bookstore, he’s not allowed to counsel students on other options, such as Amazon and Chegg, which he finds morally unjust.

Most students already know of this option. “I only got one [book] from the bookstore; they’re cheaper online,” said SRJC student Alejandra Solis.

Despite most students knowing about other options, Rossi said it’s important to include a resolve in the textbook reform that allows bookstore employees to give other options to distressed students without fear of losing their jobs.

“The textbook industry is dying, and I think they know that and so they are really trying to extract as much profit as they can. But that really harms people and I’m not about that,” Rossi said.