The University of Manitoba’s Students’ Union (UMSU) has officially started renting out first-year mathematics textbooks to students, a service that Sid Rashid says will eliminate one of the many barriers for students at the University of Manitoba.
The pilot project started at the beginning of the school year and rents out first-year calculus and linear algebra textbooks. for a cheaper price.
MATH 1300 and MATH 1500 are the two courses that the textbooks are being rented for, and, according to Rashid, there a total of 75 books to be distributed.
The University of Manitoba is not part of the project. As Rashid explained, “The University of Manitoba Students’ Union, has started a pilot project to purchase and loan out textbooks to students in an effort to reduce the upfront barriers that most students face in their first few weeks of classes.”
The books will be lent out at a 15 per cent administration cost and 50 per cent deposit are placed on each text book that is lent out, the books condition is ranked with a letter grade and with every letter grade the book falls five dollars is taken out of the deposit.
When it comes to the program violating copyright laws, the students’ union president said that they had consulted with copyright experts and said that there should be no complications caused by the project.
Currently 31 students are renting textbooks through the project, which is in its first stages of development. Success of this year’s lending process will determine whether or not the project will be continued in upcoming years.
According to Deborah Windsor the executive director of the Writers’ Union of Canada, when it comes to copyright, this system would not upset authors as most of the academic texts that are used in a university setting are written by academics who have the material already worked out in their payment agreement.
“In the academic world most of the textbooks are written by academics and it’s part of the fiduciary responsibility as an employee to craft and work on these documents,” said Windsor. She also said that, unlike literary works outside of the textbook, the copyright belongs to the publisher of the textbook instead of the writer.
A professor at the U of M who teaches a first-year calculus course said that, even though the program might reduce restrictions when it comes to expensive textbooks, he doubts the program will actually bring more students to the courses.
“I don’t think that it’s opening it up to [students],” he said. “The only way you can say that is if the price of the book was a deterrent for [students] taking the course, [ . . . ] but I’m not sure that’s true.”
He continued, “I think people take courses because it’s required in their program. I don’t think people normally take mathematics or calculus courses because they say ‘I would like to do that.’”
The book-renting program is currently underway and will continue through out the rest of the year. The rental period for the first term ends in December and the second term rental period starts in January, according to Rashid.
“The response has been very positive from students in the program, with many students asking if we were lending any other books they needed.”
The books are distributed by UMSU through the office on the Fort Garry Campus and students who are interested can contact UMSU for more information.