The University Park Undergraduate Association campaign “TEXTBOOKS SUCK” aims to find a solution to overpriced textbooks. At the beginning of the semester, representatives said they’d be focusing heavily on gathering student feedback. UPUA Academic Affairs Chairman Ricky Pooler, in September, said UPUA was looking to put information it gathered to use by creating a “consultative report for Faculty Senate on how to reduce textbook costs.”
A month later, UPUA’s work on this initiative is continuing — recently, in the form of a campaign dubbed “Operation Lollipop.”
Last week, UPUA representatives OK’ed spending about $450 on the “Operation Lollipop” event held Friday in the HUB-Robeson Center. At Friday’s event, students to fill out a Google survey about their experiences in textbook buying in exchange for a lollipop — which came with a tip to help students cut back on spending too much on textbooks.
Before the spending on that event was approved at the UPUA meeting, though, UPUA At-Large Representative Elias Warren motioned to let students in attendance sound off on whether this sounded like a worthwhile approach in the first place. Warren’s motion failed — a move that seems to at least slightly contradict UPUA’s emphasis on garnering more student feedback. Even if Friday’s event did attract 209 students to complete the survey, beating out UPUA’s goal of at least 200, it still would have been worthwhile to at least solicit some extra thoughts from students on how to make the event worthwhile.
It’s important to keep in mind that the feedback garnered at Friday’s event represents only a small portion of the Penn State population, and it might also be worthwhile for UPUA to continue to gather additional input through continued surveys distributed online. It would also be wise to gather plenty of feedback from professors to get a sense of what kind of issues factor into their decisions when choosing a textbook. This would lend itself to the goals outlined on the “TEXTBOOKS SUCK” website of working to either fix the problems identified by students or explain why they’re occurring.
Finding a way to publicize the feedback from students and faculty could also go a long way in calling attention to specific problem areas. And, as it moves forward, UPUA could also maybe even consider setting up a forum for continued discussion on the issue — like a “Rate My Professors” where students could post feedback about textbooks required by each course.
Whether the money spent on “Operation Lollipop” was ultimately worth it depends entirely on how the feedback it gathered is put to use from here.