Math Professor Wants To Use Cheaper, Better Textbook, Clashes With Department

(CBS LA)

(CBS LA)

The argument over a textbook at Cal State Fullerton combines many different issues in academia: the cost of textbooks, deference to authority, and academic freedom. A math professor wants to do something really simple: use different textbooks from other faculty who teach the same course, because he thinks that a different pair of books is better. Those books also happen to cost less. However, the standard $180 textbook happens to have been written by the chair of the department.

The controversy dates back to 2013, when the professor was officially reprimanded for teaching a course on linear algebra and differential equations from a pair of books that cost $75 and $0. Students probably preferred this to having to pay for and carry around one larger book that costs $180, but the rest of the department still prefers the other book.

This has led to a department-wide argument over rules, including a rule made in 1984 that all professors had to use the same textbook. The book that they chose––the one written by the department chair and vice-chair––was published seven years after that, and has been the default text since.

Now the book is mandatory for that particular course, but that doesn’t mean they can afford it. One student who CBS Los Angeles interviewed explained that she has trouble affording textbooks, and has to borrow them on site at the library and take photos with her phone to complete assignments. Harmonizing required books might have resolved the departmental squabbling, but doesn’t help students who don’t have $180 to spend on books for every course they took.

Cal State Fullerton Math Professor Clashes With Department Heads Over Textbook [CBS Los Angeles]