Warning: your Quizlet answers are in danger of being removed because faculty want to change textbook policies

The University Senate takes a vote to pass a bill highlighting the dangers in distribution of course materials on websites like Quizlet. Photo by Shel Levy | The Signal

Students generally rely on two resources to get through the courses in which they’re enrolled: textbooks and Google. The University Senate Faculty Affairs Committee is developing two policies that will affect both to some degree in responses to problems seen at Georgia State and other schools around the nation.

“In the case of these two proposals, the faculty wants to ensure the integrity of the learning environment, such as ethically sound textbook adoption, ensuring student privacy (uploading course recordings) and protecting faculty intellectual property,” Faculty Affairs Committee Chair Robert Maxwell said.

Modeled after Rutgers University and University of California, Berkeley, the first policy idea will allow faculty and staff to remove information posted on third-party websites like Course Hero, Quizlet or Chegg. 

It is the instructors’ responsibility to monitor course material. Currently, if an instructor were to ask third-party websites to remove the material uploaded, it would not be removed. With the introduction of this policy, websites will have to oblige.

This policy will be put in place to avoid violations, including students finding quizzes with answers, papers with instructor notes and videos being shared publicly without the knowledge or consent of the students involved. 

“Instructor-generated material should be for student use only,” Maxwell said. “We have no problems with students sharing them among themselves. We just don’t want the information being uploaded for the world to see without permission.”

Once the drafting of the proposal is complete, the Executive Committee will decide whether the proposal is ready for consideration by the full Senate. If and when the Senate approves the proposal, it turns into a school policy. 

Another similar topic was brought to attention, specifically the conflict of interest that arises if a professor assigns his or her students to purchase a textbook they’ve written. 

If students were to purchase their professor’s textbooks, the professor would then, in turn, receive royalties from the purchases, causing a potential ethical issue. To avoid this, Maxwell proposed a policy on the “adoption of faculty-authored textbooks” to the Senate.

This proposed policy includes a vetting process in which professors asking students to purchase their “self-authored textbooks” file a formal request to do so. The unit head of the department must make certain that the material submitted is relevant and appropriate to the course before approval.

“This increases transparency between students, faculty and university administration,”  Maxwell said. “Students will be able to see that the textbooks they are asked to purchase to support their education are not a capricious decision, but something that has been thoroughly considered by their faculty.”