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Peck: Allowing professors to sell their own books to students should be stopped

Professors+being+allowed+to+sell+their+books+to+students+creates+an+indisputable+conflict+of+interest.
Sydney Lykins // Clemson University
Professors being allowed to sell their books to students creates an indisputable conflict of interest.

Having finished nearly six semesters at Clemson University, I have bought and rented many books for my classes. Many professors have also provided outside sources as an alternative to a course textbook. While there have not been too many issues surrounding course material that I can complain about, the one type of professor that perpetually gets under my skin is the one that requires the book they wrote.

Though this has happened multiple times in my college experience, one particular instance this semester has bothered me more than usual. About halfway through the semester, my professor required us to purchase his book for a single assignment. We did not need it before this assignment and have not read it since.

This arrangement would have been understandable if the professor provided the book to students for free. However, having students spend $75 only to complete one assignment seems like an extreme overreach, especially when the professor profits from requiring this purchase.

The evident conflict of interest is a significant issue. Allowing professors to require their students to purchase their work and their direct profit from this interaction creates a divide between the students and their professors. If professors want to cite their work in their lectures, they should not be allowed to use this as an opportunity to charge their students. It is not unprecedented for professors to let students access their work without having to buy it, as many professors provide their publishings as PDFs.

This situation also creates an issue related to limiting students’ responses to their professor’s work. In my experience, I found myself disagreeing with findings that my professor drew in his book, but felt uncomfortable writing about my dissenting opinion. I valued my grades and maintaining a positive relationship with my professor more than expressing my honest thoughts in the assignment attached to the book.

The policies that could fix this conflict of interest would be straightforward and would protect students from needing to purchase expensive books that are often barely used for class. Professors profiting off of their students is an issue that should not be allowed to thrive on college campuses across the country, including Clemson University.

Natalie Peck is a junior communication major from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Natalie can be reached at [email protected].

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