Textbook affordability focus of first student body cabinet meeting of semester


Jesten Richardson

Members of Marshall’s student body cabinet discussed textbook affordability for students and the possible addition of a TEDx event for students and faculty in the future.

The affordability of educational materials and a possible TEDx event were topics of discussion Sunday, Jan. 20, during the first student body cabinet meeting of the semester.

Textbook affordability, which was a major focus for Student Body President Hunter Barclay and Student Body Vice President Hannah Petracca last semester, continues to be a focus for the pair and their cabinet during the spring semester, Barclay said.

Though she was unable to physically attend the meeting, Petracca called into the meeting, on video chat, and provided an update to the cabinet on her and Barclay’s efforts concerning affordable educational materials. Petracca said she and Barclay provided Marshall University’s faculty with a survey over Thanksgiving break and presented the findings to Marshall’s Faculty Senate Jan. 17. Barclay and Petracca created the survey to gather information on if Marshall’s faculty was using affordable materials and if the faculty cared about the issue of textbook affordability, Barclay said. Members of all of the academic colleges on campus, as well as the medical school and pharmacy school, were included in the survey, he said. “Affordable” was defined as “an option that was under $100, or, across different classes, it would be very effective, like the Cengage platform, where students can get all their materials for $120,” Barclay said.

Petracca shared the survey’s data during the cabinet meeting Sunday.

“We got really good feedback,” Petracca said. “We got feedback saying that 78 percent of the respondents were currently using an affordable textbook option, which is great. We had 70 responses total, so it’s about 10 percent of our faculty. So, obviously there’s a big margin out there that we still need to reach and encourage to use affordable options. Of the respondents that don’t use, currently, an affordable option, 60 percent of them wanted to know more about affordable options, so that’s really good. We have really great faculty, on staff, who are willing to do what’s best for us, which I’m super grateful for.”

The next step for Barclay and Petracca will be to work with the Ad Hoc Affordable Educational Materials Committee, of which Petracca is the chairperson, as well as Provost Jaime Taylor, and to use data from the university to identify courses with high enrollment that could be candidates for stipends, Barclay said. They will then “reach out to professors” and ask them if they would be willing to change their course materials to “those that are free to students or ones that are lower cost,” and they would be provided with a stipend, Barclay said.

Another subject of Barclay and Petracca’s cabinet meeting Sunday was the responsibilities of the cabinet members if the 10-page application Barclay, Petracca, Press Secretary Buffy Six and faculty contact Brian Kinghorn created gets approved by the TED organization, paving the way for a TEDx event which could occur during this semester, Barclay said.

Barclay, Petracca and their team are “big fans of TED Talks,” Barclay said. He also said he thinks a TEDx event —which brings “the spirit of TED’s mission of ideas worth spreading to local communities around the globe,” according to TED’s website— could help Marshall with recruitment, help get the university’s name out into the world and give people connected to Marshall and the Huntington community a platform to tell their stories.

Six, a senior online journalism major, said she hopes that TED will see a partnership with Marshall as “a great opportunity for Marshall and for TED as well,” because “it’ll bring a lot of interesting talks that other places, other universities, can’t bring,” such as those about the Marshall plane crash and the annual fountain ceremony.

“What we really want to focus on is how Huntington is a community, and Marshall also is a community, where we might face big challenges, whether that’s trying to get students to go to college, the opioid epidemic— and that could even involve the plane crash that happened many years ago,” Barclay said. “It’s a really resilient community that just bounces back and brings innovative solutions, so we’re trying to showcase that Marshall is really this hub of innovation that’s responding to some big issues.”

Student body cabinet meetings will be held biweekly during the spring semester. The student body cabinet takes questions, comments and suggestions through social media, as well as through the suggestion boxes located in the Memorial Student Center and in Drinko Library, Six said.

Jesten Richardson can be contacted at [email protected].