The Senate Source

February 2013

Senates Tackle Open Textbook Legislation

The Academic Senates of the UC, CSU, and California Community Colleges, through the Intersegmental Committee of Academic Senates (ICAS), have been charged with implementing two pieces of legislation signed into law in 2012 that are intended to drive down the cost of textbooks for California college students.

Senate Bill 1052 directed ICAS to appoint by April 1, 2013 a California Open Education Resources Council, composed of three Senate members from each higher education segment, to identify a list of 50 lower division courses for which affordable, open source textbooks and materials can be developed, and to establish a competitive RFP process for producing or acquiring the textbooks if funding is provided. SB 1053 is a companion bill that established a California Digital Open Source Library, to be administered by CSU.

The legislation will provide up to $10 million for the project, with $5 million from the state contingent on $5 million in matching funds raised from private sources.

ICAS represents the faculty of the three segments of public higher education in California and serves as a forum for regular faculty consultation and collaboration across the segments.

In early December, the three Academic Senate leaders met with Senator Darrell Steinberg, who sponsored the bills, and his staff to discuss implementation. More recently, they submitted a proposed operating budget for the first months of Council activity. UC divisional Senates are now identifying prospective UC nominees to serve on the Council. It is expected that appointees will be compensated with a stipend and/or release time.

“This is an unbelievable opportunity for faculty who want to be on the cutting edge of the open textbook movement, “said UC Senate Chair Powell.

ICAS agreed that faculty must take the lead in choosing textbooks for the Open Source Library and that institutions must provide support and training to faculty who wish to adopt the textbooks for their courses. The Council will explore how to leverage existing resources such as MERLOT, a collection of free and open online resources housed at CSU, and CSU’s Affordable Learning Solutions program, designed to enable faculty to choose and provide affordable, quality educational content, and it will identify faculty discipline experts to develop other textbooks.