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CALPIRG roundtable discussion addresses accessibility to resources for students

The California Public Interest Research Group hosted a roundtable discussion with students about the open access movement, textbook affordability and course resource costs Friday. (Liz Ketcham/Photo editor)

By Marilyn Chavez-Martinez and Emily MacInnis

October 28, 2019 12:08 am

Students discussed open access materials, textbook affordability and the University of California’s responsibility to support its students at a roundtable discussion Friday.

The California Public Interest Research Group hosted a discussion regarding open access at the end of Open Access Week on Friday. Open access is a movement to make public research free and available to everyone.

In February, the UC announced it would not renew its multimillion-dollar contract with Elsevier, the largest scientific publishing company in the world, after failing to come to an agreement on subscription costs and publishing fees. In early August, 31 UC faculty on Elsevier editorial boards signed a letter urging the publishing company to continue productive negotiations.

[Related: UC decides not to renew Elsevier subscription after months of negotiations]

The faculty also said they would temporarily stop their editorial board responsibilities until Elsevier signed a new contract with the UC.

Sam Leung, a second-year environmental science student at the meeting, said he has had to skip buying textbooks for two classes this year. This means he has to rely solely on lecture, he added, making understanding more difficult.

“I need to weigh which textbooks I need to buy and which ones I can forsake, which impacts my studying,” Leung said.

Prabhdeep Rai, the CALPIRG campaign coordinator for affordable textbooks, said she thinks the cost of textbooks makes education inaccessible. She also said CALPIRG’s goal is to raise awareness about open access materials for both students and professors.

“Students should not be hungry or sacrificing their well-being in order to afford textbooks and do well in school,” said Rai, a third-year political science student.

Rai also said she thinks the UC should be doing more to make its research accessible to its students.

“This is an issue that students are being affected by, the UC (Board of) Regents can do something to make education more accessible … (especially because) the UC prides itself on making education accessible,” Rai said.

Brett Tracy, a third-year business economics student, said when he attended community college he took four to five classes per term and had to get a job to afford his textbooks, which impacted his studies. He added that he spent around $200 per term on textbooks.

Miriam Nunez-Dominguez, a third-year philosophy student who helped organize the event, said she thinks the most effective way to push for these resources is to go to the UC Regents for extra funding to support students now that the UC is not spending millions of dollars on the Elsevier contract.

“The UC Regents are supporting us, but also not doing enough to support us,” Nunez-Dominguez said.

On Aug. 2, the UC Office of Scholarly Communication said Elsevier had still not proposed a plan that met the UC Academic Senate’s objectives.

Rai said she thinks the open access movement is growing every day, but students might not be aware of it. She added she thinks the UC Regents must realize increasing accessibility to research is an issue they can fix.

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Marilyn Chavez-Martinez | Outreach director
Chavez-Martinez is the 2019-2020 Assistant News editor for the Campus Politics beat. She was previously a reporter for the beat. Chavez-Martinez is also a second-year English major.
Chavez-Martinez is the 2019-2020 Assistant News editor for the Campus Politics beat. She was previously a reporter for the beat. Chavez-Martinez is also a second-year English major.
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