Should professors be allowed to require their own textbooks?

Elliot Riley, Contributing Writer

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We all spend thousands of dollars in tuition, fees, and housing every semester to attend classes. When we attend those classes, we expect the professor to be knowledgeable in their area of study, and we expect them to pass that knowledge onto us.

Now, imagine going to class and looking at the syllabus for the first time only to realize the professor is requiring a book they wrote for class. Not only is the professor exploiting their students to get money, but now the students are paying for the professor’s knowledge when they’ve already paid thousands of dollars to hear it directly from them.

Over the course of my three years here at Bloomsburg University, I’ve had several professors require textbooks written by themselves. These classes have been in different departments, with various pricing on the textbooks. The professors would quiz students on the assigned reading or assign homework from the textbook, forcing me to purchase the book to do well in the class. Even worse is when a professor requires their own book, yet the class never opens it once. Each time, this led me to feel like the professor was using me for their own personal gain.

On the other hand, I’ve had a professor who put a PDF copy of his textbook on BOLT for free. He didn’t require reading, but this allowed students to read at their own free will and gain additional insight from the professor.

Furthermore, I had a professor whose textbook was paperback and could be purchased for a very cheap price; around $15. Both options provide students with additional information without forcing them to pay a high price for a look inside their professor’s mind.

According to Jane Robbins, an adjunct professor at Bryant University, the issue “is not about using self-produced material, but in getting paid for that material.” I agree. There’s nothing wrong with the professor offering a way to learn additional information, but when they put a price tag on it ethical issues arise. Robbins goes on to offer a solution: Professors should eliminate royalties for any of their textbooks that have been purchased from their university. Thus, professors won’t profit from any students that purchase their textbook through the university store. Although students would still have to pay for the book, their professors wouldn’t make money off their students and it would just be like buying any textbook for any class.

In my opinion, if a professor wants to charge students a ridiculous price for their textbook, then they shouldn’t be requiring that book in the first place. There are plenty of well-written and knowledgeable books in every field that a professor could use instead of their own. If a professor truly believes his textbook is the greatest in his field and should be used for teaching, then another professor is bound to use it for their class. Professionals in the industry may use it as reference material as well. There are many other ways for a professor to profit off their book instead of through their students.

Elliot is a senior Computer Science and Digital Forensics major.