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The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

Textbook posting law creates tension

A new law requires DVC instructors to post textbooks and prices by the earliest registration time. (Carly Jones/The Inquirer)

When it comes to textbooks, you can’t please all of the people, all of the time.

A new law went into effect July 1 requiring colleges to post prices and textbooks by the earliest registration time. Section 133 of the Higher Education Opportunity Act is intended to give students advance notice of what they’ll need for the next semester.

But teachers want more time to review textbooks and students want more time to buy them.

“There is a tension between helping students and allowing faculty the freedom to create curriculum,” English professor Keith Mikolavich said.  

For spring 2011, registration starts Nov. 22. In order to have time to prepare, the bookstore gave instructors an Oct. 18 deadline for listing their required materials.

English professor Laury Fischer said he needed more time to determine whether or not the books he was teaching with would be appropriate to use again. He said the early deadline “forces teachers to make bad pedagogical decisions.”

Administrators are also concerned about last-minute staffing changes to classes and whether or not replacement teachers would be forced to use books they didn’t choose. 

Some departments are more affected by this than others.

“We don’t change instructors … it happens once in a blue moon,” said Catherine Machalinski of the biological sciences department.

It’s a different story in the English department, where late-staffing changes amount to “typically 25-50 per semester,” said Nancy Zink, chair of the English department.

English teachers are constantly looking for new materials, whereas in other disciplines there are often standard books to use.

“The information doesn’t change much in science, math … even history,” Fischer said. “What we think students will respond well to in writing is likely to change year-to-year.”

For other departments at DVC the policy change matters much less. Science professor Craig Gerken said that all of the chemistry sections use the same textbook.

“For logistical reasons it’s easier for everyone to use the same book,” he said.

To combat these issues, the English department has decided that all of its composition classes next semester will be flagged with the phrase “attend class first” at the bookstore.

The necessary books will be tentatively listed online to show students approximately how expensive class materials will be, but faculty “can’t promise the books listed will be the books used,” Gerken said.

These flags may not only be found in English composition classes. 

“Any teacher in the college can put this in their classes … they just have to fill out a form,” said Becky Opsata of the applied and fine arts department.

Xin Chen, a first-year student, said she was unimpressed by the idea of using  the “attend class first” label on books.

“The information is not useful, it’s pointless,” Chen said.

She would prefer that English professors “don’t put anything on the websiteand on the first day, give students a longer time to get books.”


Contact Kevin Hayes at [email protected]

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Textbook posting law creates tension