#Textbookbroke campaign demands more affordable, cost-effective solution

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Graphic by Kash Patel

As the semester commences at universities across Ontario, many post-secondary students find themselves conflicted by the cost of course materials.

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), an organization dedicated to representing the needs of undergraduate students across the province, relaunched the campaign #TextbookBroke to address the matter of practically unaffordable course materials and rally towards creating more reasonably priced or cost-free options for students.

Shannon Kelly, vice-president of finance at OUSA and vice-president of student affairs at Laurier’s Students’ Union, discussed the campaign, OUSA’s mission behind it and how they are on campus speaking with students and faculty.

“The [original] campaign was started in British Columbia in 2012, and it was adopted by OUSA earlier this year and it’s our second time launching the campaign,” Kelly said.

It was concluded by OUSA after the first campaign launch that students, on average, were spending a minimum of five hundred dollars on textbooks per semester.

The first launch of #TextbookBroke back in January of this year was the first campaign of its kind to reach Ontario. There are now eight undergraduate representative schools in Ontario that take part; Laurier, Waterloo, McMaster, Brock, Western, Queen’s, Laurentian and Trent-Durham.

OUSA’s #TextbookBroke campaign hopes to “reduce these costs by moving towards open-education, which is basically open-access textbooks online that are publicly accessible and free. It’s modelled after Europe which has the largest open-education system in the world,” Kelly said.

The campaign provides insight towards the reality of just how expensive textbooks can get and how students who are unable to afford course materials are inescapably negatively impacted.

There is much emphasis on the value of utilizing technology for education through open-access materials.

This semester’s #TextbookBroke campaign ran from Sept. 10 to 14 on campuses across Ontario and will continue on social media until Sept. 21.

The first launch of #TextbookBroke back in January of this year was the first campaign of its kind to reach Ontario. There are now eight undergraduate representative schools in Ontario that take part; Laurier, Waterloo, McMaster, Brock, Western, Queen’s, Laurentian and Trent-Durham.

As part of the campaign’s initiative to get a dialogue started with the student body, they had set up a booth in Laurier’s concourse last week.

“There’s a huge line outside the bookstore at this time of the year, so we’ve been having volunteers talk to people while they’re in line,” Kelly said. “We had a raffle as well for a student to win a one-hundred dollar gift card from the Students’ Union.”

Volunteers from #TextbookBroke had been handing out cards for students to fill out while waiting in line: “I spent ‘blank’ amount on textbooks but I could have spent it on ‘blank.’” The majority of which students mentioned groceries, rent and other essential expenses.

OUSA’s next steps involve potentially meeting with professors and faculty at Ontario representative schools, including Laurier.

“We definitely have long ways to go in terms of meeting with professors, because faculty are ultimately the people who choose the textbooks,” Kelly said.

“We met with the bookstore prior to this campaign because we didn’t want to seem like an anti-bookstore campaign — they do a lot of work in trying to save student dollars.”

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