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By Jackie Filson
On Wednesday evening, the University of Connecticut Undergraduate Student Government passed an act to allocate funding for an open source chemistry textbook.
The act, written by External Affairs chair Daniel Byrd and Student Services chair Eliza Conrad, proposes a reallocation of $1,185.83 from the USG Academic Affairs budget to help cover the $21,185.83 cost for the revisions of an open source chemistry textbook.
The money will be used to pay Word & Numbers, a revision company, for revision work on the open source chemistry textbook written by UConn chemistry professor Ed Neth.
Students at UConn in the introductory level chemistry classes taught by Ed Neth and any other professors who decide to adopt this new book will have access to the textbook for free online and will pay only printing fees for a hard copy.
Originally, the USG allocated $20,000 to the General Miscellaneous section of the budget to cover the projected costs of this project. However, after meeting with Word & Numbers, the cost was increased to $21,185.83. As a result, the act proposes to withdraw the extra money from a surplus Academic Affairs budget.
According to Byrd, Professor Neth conservatively estimates that the students in his class will save $400,000 over a five-year period with the adoption of the new book. If other professors use this book as well, those savings will increase.
Last fall, UConn’s chapter of PIRG, a national public interest advocacy group, testified in the state capital in Hartford for a bill promoting the use of affordable open-source online textbooks. The bill passed in July, establishing an open-source textbook consortium to help lower the cost of textbooks in Connecticut.
The USG act will put UConn on par with the state.
“I am very strongly in support of this act. It sets an example, is well within our budget… we allocated for this and when we pass this with overwhelming support the state will notice.,” said USG Senator Stephanie Sponzo. “Let’s show the state what a one time investment can do for students over a very short period of time. It is valuable and important to invest in open source textbooks.”
Many senators voiced the same opinions as Sponzo. However, Senators Sam Surowitz and Christopher Burr remained skeptical.
“I do think that there’s plenty of other open sourced textbooks that can be used. I think it can be a different textbook for a different class that already exists,” said Senator Surowitz.
Surowitz worries about the gains Neth will receive from the book being published.
“I think he can front the $21,000 to have his own book reviewed, I do think it sets a precedent,” said Surowitz. “I don’t see how this comes out ahead of a cheaper textbook or online textbook that is already available.”
The act passed, despite two nays, in hopes of opening the door to bringing open sourced textbooks to UConn.