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Leadership Philosophy (& Plan)

Published onOct 28, 2021
Leadership Philosophy (& Plan)
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key-enterThis Pub is a Supplement to
Cover Letter

In my Cover Letter, I try to convince you that my past and present prepare me to execute my vision and fulfill the duties of Chair and Professor. I do more of that in this document. Recall that my vision is to make your department the world leader in “open criminology.” Certainly, we can achieve this outcome in the next three years. There will be immediate and long-term benefits that make your department better. A lot of this activity will cost the department nothing. The parts that are not free provide a great opportunity to get grant and donation dollars to support the work. I have a plan. My plan has a philosophical basis. Everything I do is based on the same philosophy.1 I tell you about it in this document, including how it shapes my outlook on leadership and my plans for your department. The sections are:

  • What Is “Better”?

  • My Overarching Goal as Chair

  • Year 1 Plan

  • Research Impact

    • Paywalled & Open Access (OA)

    • Current OA to Your Articles

    • Increase OA to Your Articles

      • Preprints

      • Postprints

      • Versions of Record

  • Student Success

    • For-Cost & No-Cost Learning Materials (LMs)

    • Current No-Cost LMs in Your Courses

    • Increase No-Cost LMs in Your Courses

      • Not All No-Cost LMs are OA

      • Partner With the USC Library

  • Conclusion

What Is “Better”?

My vision is meant to make your department better. But what is “better”?2 To understand my answer, you should know that I am a Benthamite and committed to his brand of hedonism. For Bentham, “better” equates to “more benefit, less cost” (i.e., “more pleasure, less pain”). This view of “better” is not only an economic matter. It defines morality. An action’s rationality and morality reflects its “utility”—benefit minus cost. If its benefit is greater than its cost, it is economical and moral; otherwise, it is not. Our actions are better to the extent they have more utility. There is only one way to maximize it: you must act on behalf of all stakeholders.3 I want to make other people’s lives better. I want to do that for as many people as possible, to the maximum extent that I can. I am a public servant. I take that seriously. I want the greatest good for the greatest number.

My Overarching Goal as Chair

In this part of my Cover Letter, I explain why I want to be Chair: to be better positioned to advance open criminology. Let’s push that aside for a section. More broadly, how will I make your department better? We must always remember that a department is nothing without its people. The people who are most central to a department are its faculty, staff, and students. So for me, making a department “better” equates to making those people happier. My goal is to maximize your pleasure and minimize your pain. Everyone wants to get paid more, amirite? Everyone wants more conference travel, better computers, more GA support, and other perks. I will do my best to maximize those for you. But Chairs have limited control over money, and what they do have tends to be pocket change. So though money will be on the table, and we will increase the money available to us, it is easier for me to increase your nonmonetary pleasure. I am sure you have an intrinsic passion for one or more aspects of research, teaching, or service. You enjoy—i.e., benefit from—doing things for which you have a passion. And because you enjoy them, you are better at them. So I will throw gasoline on those flames of passion. I will minimize your time and effort on activities that you do not enjoy; after all, you are less good at them. From my outsider position, I cannot know how exactly we will maximize your happiness. But please, do know that my overarching goal is to do exactly that. It is the best way to serve you and the greater good. We will not pay the most of any department, but we will pride ourselves on being the happiest. This is how we will retain your current faculty, staff, and students, as well as attract new members.

Year 1 Plan

Now, I turn to what I consider the most important parts of my Year 1 plan to make your department the leader in open criminology: We will (1) increase your impact by making your articles open access; and, (2) increase your student’s success by making learning materials no-cost. I focus on those pursuits because I am sure we can quickly accomplish them; I know how; and, they will have a huge effect. I focus on Year 1 because, in my current outsider role, I cannot know how exactly things will unfold in the longer-term. Don’t take that the wrong way; I have other concrete goals and plans, which I hope to discuss during an interview.

Even if I do not get an interview, I would be happy and grateful to help you accomplish the above goals. I am already helping other criminology units do so.4 You might ask yourself, “Then why would we hire you for this job?” Because I help them. I will do it for you, and then we will be the first to do other big things in open criminology.

Research Impact

As researchers, our job is to create ideas (e.g., theories, typologies) and generate findings (i.e., evidence-based assertions). The greater is the access to them, the greater their potential impact. But what is “impact”? I think of it as largely equivalent to “usage.” There are multiple ways in which research is used. The most traditional measure of impact is citation, a proxy for a work’s influence on subsequent research.5 The digital era has expanded our metrics, known as “altmetrics,”6 and they will be increasingly important in assessing research. Altmetrics include, but not limited to, “pageviews” (i.e., reads), “users” (i.e., readers), geographic reach, inclusion in news, social media or blogs, syllabi, policy and legal documents.

We should not replace but, rather, supplement citation as an impact metric—more data is better.7 All of us know citation is far from a perfect measure of usage. Leaving aside the problem of works not being cited when they should be, and vice versa, citation is a relatively rare event and occurs over a relatively long period, with little to no movement early on for criminology articles. It is good to address those limitations with altmetrics that occur more often and more quickly. Let’s take an example from my CV, specifically my article, “Drug Dealers’ Rational Choices on Which Customers to Rip-Off.” It has been cited 52 times since its publication in 2013. We get a clearer picture of the article’s usage by adding altmetrics; see figures 1 and 2.


Figure 1. Pageviews, users, and geographic reach in previous 12 months

Note: Source is scottjacques.us


Figure 2. High-level “Attention Score” from Almetric

Note: Source is altmetric.com/details/1952853?src=bookmarklet


Paywalls & Open Access (OA)

Paywalls limit the potential impact of research as measured by citation and altmetrics.8 This is because some people cannot afford to pay $40 or even $10 to read research. This is social injustice. To move through a paywall, moreover, a reader must create and log into an account. This takes time and effort, further reducing the odds of using research.9 Readers can freely and easily bypass paywalls by using sites like Sci-Hub, but this is illegal and therefore a risk. Not just a risk of legal trouble, but also of victimization.10

Those paywalls problems are opportunities for OA to take hold, building on the last decade-plus of (the) movement.11 OA reduces the amount of money, time, effort, and risk involved in using research, thereby increasing its impact. This is why it is rational for researchers and academic units to make their outputs OA.

Current OA to Your Articles

We can significantly increase your department’s research impact, both in citation and altmetrics, by increasing OA to its peer-reviewed journal articles (among other outputs).12 The next subsection explains how. But first, let’s see the opportunity for improvement—set a baseline—by looking at the current level of OA to the department’s articles.13 I did some digging, and what I found is typical of criminology programs in the United States (US):14

  • On USC’s institutional repository, Scholarly Commons, the department’s page has no articles since 2009. In the US, it is normal for faculty to be unaware that there even is an institutional repository.

  • On your department’s website, the Research page lists articles back to 2017, but there are no links to the papers. Some departments have links, but they go to paywalled versions. Better is linking to OA versions. The only criminology department that I have seen do so is mine,15 a feature that I added—as Director of AYS Open—to all of my college’s academic unit pages.

When criminology articles are freely available, they tend to be made that way by individuals without help from their universities. What I found for your department is, again, typical of faculty in the US:16

  • Of 77 articles published in 2020 and 2021, there is legal OA to 13 (17%) articles, and illegal OA to 22 articles (29%); see table 1. Stated differently, there is no legal OA to 83% of your recent articles.


Table 1. OA to peer-reviewed journal articles published in 2020 to (October) 2021 by department faculty

Author

Articles

Legal OA

Illegal OA

Alpert, Geoffrey

9

5 (55%)

1 (11%)

Andersen, Tia Stevens

5

1 (20%)

1 (20%)

Applegate, Brandon

4

1 (25%)

1 (25%)

Boyle, Kaitlin

8

0 (0%

2 (25%)

Burrow, John17

d/k

d/k

d/k

Isom, Deena

15

1 (7%)

3 (20%)

Kaminiski, Robert

4

0 (0%)

2 (50%)

Klein, Brent

2

0 (0%)

0 (0%)

Koons-Witt, Barbara

2

0 (0%)

0 (0%)

Mancik, Ashley

7

0 (0%)

3 (43%)

Metcalfe, Christi

6

2 (33%)

0 (0%)

Schnell, Cory18

d/k

d/k

d/k

Smith, Hayden

13

1 (8%)

9 (69%)

Stoughton, Seth

2

2 (100%)

0 (0%)

Total

77

13 (17%)

22 (29%)

Notes: Counts are based on Google Scholar as of October 20, 2021. “d/k” denotes “don’t know.” Illegal and legal OA papers are not necessarily posted by a department author. Do be aware that publishers are currently providing “Free access” to some articles, but this is not the same as OA. The former is temporary, the latter is permanent.


Before proceeding, I want to make clear: The above findings should not be interpreted as, “The department and faculty are at fault for not doing something.” The problem is systemic. Especially in the US, but really in most every criminology program, faculty and students have not received training in OA—i.e., no one is teaching us this “stuff.” Consider examples from my life:

  • In the past, all of my articles were illegally OA. I thought it was legal, despite reading the copyright agreements. It was only a few years ago that I learned this is mistaken. Now, all of my papers are legally OA on my website, among other places.

  • Before a couple years ago, my department members, myself included, did not use our institutional repository page. Now all of my college’s academic units do so, which is one of my accomplishments as Director of AYS Open.

  • A few months ago, my department became the first to have a “Hosted Collection” on CrimRxiv; you can see it here. A Hosted Collection is a webpage on the site devoted to a particular group. For example, other criminology “departments” that have a Hosted Collection are John Jay (CUNY) and the Universities of Manchester, Missouri St. Louis, and Nebraska Omaha. As Director of CrimRxiv, getting adopters of Hosted Collections is super important to me because it will grow, decentralize and diversify control of the repository. Even if you do not hire me, I hope your department will work with me to get it a Hosted Collection.

Increase OA to Your Articles

If you hire me, I will ensure there is 100% OA to the department’s future articles.19 This will increase your impact and be a concrete contribution to social justice. We will do this for free. It will not require faculty to alter where they publish, when they publish, or anything. It will not require faculty to do any extra work, other than use an online submission form. Actually, my plan will reduce the workload of your authors who already make their papers OA, legally or illegally. Speaking of which, my plan will eliminate the risk of authors illegally making their papers OA. All of the above will be true for staff and student authors, as well. In short, there is basically no cost here; nothing to fear; it is “all good.” This will benefit you and the department. This is more than selfish action. For the first time, everyone will have complete, free access to your articles. This is is the greatest good for the greatest number.

My plan is simple and fully within our control (and remember it’s free!). I present it in chronological parts that reflect the maturation of a paper from “preprint” to “postprint” and, finally, to the “Version of Record.” Here is what those terms mean:

  • Preprint: a paper that has not been accepted for publication; some people refer to this synonymously with “working paper.”20

  • Postprint: a paper that has been accepted for publication; this is also called an “Author Accepted Manuscript.”

  • Version of Record: a paper in its final form (e.g., formatted, copyedited, branded) in a journal or other outlet; this is also called the “publisher version.”

Preprints

In the hard sciences and some social scientific fields (e.g., economics and psychology), it is common for authors to make their preprints OA. This is not yet the norm in criminology, but it will become such. Already, publishers permit the practice.21 There is nothing to wait for. It is time to act. All of us have waited many months, if not years, for a paper to be accepted for publication. In the meantime, the paper can make no impact—unless it is shared as a preprint. That is why making preprints OA increases their impact: it gets them into the world sooner and longer.22 There are other benefits, like establishing the “priority of discovery” (e.g., first to report a finding) and showing colleagues what you have been doing.23 Preprints do not undermine peer-review; they promote it.24 Anyone can review them before publication. This is good for everyone: authors, the field, and others.25

I will incentivize and help authors to make their preprints OA. I will reward the practice by giving weight to OA preprints in annual reviews, among other ways. I will do so because, in addition to the above benefits, sharing preprints will increase internal (i.e., intra-departmental) and external engagement with our research. We want our colleagues and students to see what we are working on. We want to see what they are doing. We want outsiders to do the same. We should satisfy those wants. The best way is by making preprints OA.

Sharing preprints will be easy; i.e. this is where the “help” comes in: All that authors will have to do is complete an online submission form.26 It will send the preprint and other necessary information (e.g., metadata) to a USC librarian. They will get the paper into the institutional repository and our page thereon.27 This will make the paper discoverable by search engines, like Google Scholar. From there, I will get papers added to the department’s Hosted Collection on CrimRxiv, which will make the papers findable by browsing the website. To further increase the papers’ visibility, we will broadcast their OA availability on social media28 and in newsletters—all of which I can automate (read: no extra work). All of the above will increase the department’s impact—usage of its research.

Postprints

It is not common in criminology to make postprints OA, either. Yet all major publishers allow it.29 We need to take advantage. By making a paper OA on acceptance, it can get used sooner than later. It often takes publishers months to make proofs, get them approved, and finally published. There is no good reason to wait for that. The sooner we get our ideas and findings into the world—as preprints or postprints—then the sooner they can be read and shared, included in news, social media, blogs, syllabi, policy or legal documents, and get cited. The “other benefits” (see prior section) of making preprints OA apply to postprints, too.

Again, I will incentivize and help authors to make their postprints OA. In annual reviews and in other ways, I will reward the practice. This is for the same reasons specified in the prior section. Sharing postprints is easy and will follow the same process for making preprints OA, outlined above. There are some special nuances to sharing postprints, which I would be happy to discuss during an interview. In the meantime, you may want to consult what I have written about them on criminologyopen.com, such as this article.

Versions of Record

It is ideal—though often too expensive—for Versions of Record (VoR) to be OA.30 They are found in three types of journals: diamond, entirely gold, and hybrid, which have paywalled and gold OA articles.31 Unlike diamond articles and paywalled articles, gold OA comes with a cost to authors or their supporters (e.g., universities, funders). As alluded to above and affirmed here, I will not ask department members to change where they publish. That is fully up to them. If you want to publish an article in a diamond journal, good with me. If you want to pay a “processing charge” (e.g., an APC) to make your work gold OA, ok with me. Just know the department will not pay that fee, so you will have to find the funds elsewhere.

Student Success

As teachers, our job is to share ideas and findings with students; better yet, to help them reach enlightenment32 and to make an impact on the world. We also have a functional role: help students earn credentials. Common measures of student success are grade point average (GPA); time to graduation; rates of retention, academic dishonesty, dropping, withdrawing, and failing. Of course, there are many factors that affect those outcomes. Among the most important factors is the cost of education. Higher tuition, for example, pushes current and prospective students away from an institution. As instructors, we have effectively zero control over that. Yet we do have control over the cost of our learning materials (LMs)—“readings” (e.g., articles, textbooks) and ancillary materials (e.g., homework, software).

For-Cost & No-Cost Learning Materials (LMs)

Students are less successful when their LMs are more expensive.33 Many students cannot afford a cheap book, much less four or five $100+ textbooks per semester. They choose between books and gas, food, or rent. This is a social injustice. There are needs-based scholarships and grants that earmark money for LMs, but students reallocate those funds to non-educational items. As with any paywall, the costs are not all financial. Students spend time and effort shopping for and acquiring LMs. Compared to buying books at a brick-and-mortar store, it is faster and easier to buy online, except it can take weeks for a book to show up in the mail. All those costs reduce the certainty and celerity of students obtaining LMs. This impedes students’ ability to complete assignments, score well on tests and quizzes, and be successful in the long-term. They become more likely to drop, withdraw, fail. Or they may cheat out of desperation, making a bad situation even worse.

Those problems show the promise of, and need for, no-cost LMs.34 They reduce the amount of money, time, and effort required of students to access LMs. Students are not left to choose between books and basic needs. They can access the LMs right away, with no (good) reason to wait. “No-cost learning,” as it is called, promotes student success. Hence why it is rational for instructors and academic units to make their LMs no-cost.

Current No-Cost LMs In Your Courses

We can significantly improve your students’ success, as measured in all of the above ways, by increasing the use of no-cost LMs in the department’s courses. Before explaining how, let’s examine the opportunity for improvement. I gathered data on each course section in the current semester (Fall 2021) from the USC Bookstore and Self Service Carolina.35 What I learned is typical of academic units in the US:36

  • Among the 34 sections, the LMs for 14 (41%) are listed as “Pending” and thus unknown; see table 2.37

  • Among the 20 sections with LM cost data:

    • Two (10%) are no-cost. Stated differently, 90% of sections have for-cost LMs.

    • If all students bought the cheapest option (e.g., rent a digital book):

      • $103,109 is the sum cost, which equals:

      • $5,155 per section;

      • $65 per student.

    • If all students bought the most expensive option (e.g., a new hardback):

      • $192,255 is the sum cost, which equals:

      • $9,613 per section;

      • $121 per student.

Because there is missing data (due to “Pending” LMs), the sums are likely higher in reality, though the averages per section and student may be higher or lower. Do keep in mind, too, that the above numbers are for a single semester. With spring and summer to come, a guess is they will double, at least, this academic year.


Table 2. Cost of learning materials in Fall 2021 department sections

Course Section

Instructor

Required Book IISN

Highest Cost Option

Lowest Cost Option

Cap

Highest Cost Option x Cap

Lowest Cost Option x Cap

CRJU 101

001

Laskovtsov

9781544398730

$100

$48

200

$20000

$9600

003

Brackett

“Pending”

d/k

d/k

48

d/k

d/k

004

Cann

9781544307930

$85

$42

100

$8500

$4200

006

Smith

“No Materials”

$0

$0

200

$0

$0

Z1B

Abercrombie

9780135770580

$75

$75

25

$1875

$1875

CRJU 202

101

Berry 

“Pending”

d/k

d/k

48

d/k

d/k

003

Bolaji

“Pending”

d/k

d/k

48

d/k

d/k

J10

Koons-Witt

9781544374055

$100

$49.40

50

$5000

$4940

J11

Alpert

9781544339122

$125

$61.75

50

$6250

$3087.5

CRJU 203

001

Smith

“Pending”

d/k

d/k

200

d/k

d/k

CRJU 311

001

Kaminski

9780134441924

$135.99

$67.20

80

$10879.20

$5376

J11

Kaminski

9780134441924

$135.99

$67.20

80

$10879.20

$5376

CRJU 312

001

Rogers book 1

9781305633735

$175

$69.99

80

$14000

$5599.20


book 2

9781259670626

$67.33

$29.70

80

$5386.40

$2376


book 3

9780316451512

$29

$5.80

80

$2320

$464


book 4

9780312424572

$19

$9.40

80

$1520

$1520

002

Beck

“Pending”

d/k

d/k

48

d/k

d/k

J10

Rogers book 1

9781305633735

$175

$69.99

80

$14000

$5599.20


book 2

9781259670626

$67.33

$29.70

80

$5386.40

$2376


book 3

9780316451512

$29

$5.80

80

$2320

$464


book 4

9780312424572

$19

$9.40

80

$1520

$1520

CRJU 313








001

Smith

“Pending”

d/k

d/k

80

d/k

d/k

002

Suiter 

9780357296479

$230

$113.60

48

$11040

$5452.80

003

Smith

“Pending”

d/k

d/k

80

d/k

d/k

CRJU 314








001

Smith

“Pending”

d/k

d/k

80

d/k

d/k

CRJU 322








J10

Fuleihan

9781259920585

$83.75

$55

90

$7537.50

$4950

CRJU 323








J10

Klein

“Pending”

d/k

d/k

80

d/k

d/k

CRJU 341








001

Trowbridge

“Pending”

d/k

d/k

45

d/k

d/k

003

Spencer

9780190935252

$79.99

$39.50

45

$3599.55

$1777.50

J11

Applegate (book 1)

9780078140969

$164.29

$164.29

70

$11500.30

$11500.30


book 2

9781506347561

$100

$44.10

70

$7000

$3087

J12

Klein (book 1)

9781544375731

$100

$68

75

$6800

$5100


book 2 

9781337091855

$175

$86.45

75

$13125

$6483.75

CRJU 351

001

Rogers

9781544375434

$100

$48

75

$7500

$3600

002

Rogers

9781544375434

$100

$48

80

$8000

$3840

CRJU 420

001

Mancik

9781544356037

$60

$29.65

50

$3000

$1482.50

CRJU 421

001

Boyle

9781506388519

$85

$37.50

39

$3315

$1462.50

CRJU 426








J10

Smith

“Pending”

d/k

d/k

35

d/k

d/k

CRJU 430

001

Schnell

“Pending”

d/k

d/k

30

d/k

d/k

J10

Andersen 

“Pending”

d/k

d/k

35

d/k

d/k

CRJU 491

002

Schnell

“No Materials”

$0

$0

80

$0

$0

CRJU 494








001

Fuleihan

“Pending”

d/k

d/k

30

d/k

d/k

Total






$192,255

$103,109

Notes: Book data are based on University of South Carolina Bookstore as of October 22, 2021. Enrollment data are based on Self Service Carolina as of the same date. Excludes “Regional Palmetto.” “d/k” denotes “don’t know.”


Anyone reading this letter probably went through college being asked to buy expensive LMs. That is because the problem is systemic. The old textbook model made more sense in the pre-digital age. Nowadays, LMs can be digital and, thus, copied infinitely and made no-cost to students. Yet no criminology program, to my knowledge, is teaching “us” why or how to make that happen. Examples from my own life illustrate the point:

  • When I first started as an instructor, all of my LMs were illegally free to students. I thought it was legal to copy and post entire books for sharing; it is not. When I learned that, I responded by requiring students to buy books. I did not know of a practical alternative. Shortly thereafter, however, I became involved in Affordable Learning Georgia (ALG) grants, which have funded and otherwise helped me38 to develop courses with (legal) no-cost LMs. Now, all of my courses are that way. This personal experience prepared me to help others do the same.

  • Just a few years ago in my department there were very few sections that used no-cost LMs. As part of my work for AYS Open, we have substantially moved the needle in the other direction. Nearly 80% of undergraduate courses39 use no-cost LMs. This is saving our students hundreds of thousands of dollars each semester,40 with the total to-date in the millions. It will only grow and thus so too will the effect on student success.

Increase No-Cost LMs In Your Courses

If you hire me, we will increase the success of your students by eliminating the need for them to purchase LMs. The curricula will become “Z-degrees”: zero LM cost for students. To be clear, this will not be accomplished in Year 1. Eventually, though, we will be proud of our achievement. People will be impressed and see us as leaders. This initiative will not require instructors to change what they teach. In many cases, no or minimal work will be required of instructors to achieve our goal; why is explained in the next section. When faculty are asked to put significant time and effort into making their LMs no-cost, this work will be financially compensated. This will cost the department nothing. I will go get donation dollars to support the initiative, which is why, in my Cover Letter, I ask to meet with your Development Officers. Fundraising is not new to me. For example, my college’s Development Officer and I have brought in close to $20,000 in donations to support making LMs no-cost to students. In sum, this initiative will be a massive net-benefit to our instructors, our students, and thus the department as a whole. This is is the greatest good for the greatest number.

Not All No-Cost LMs are OA

In the longer-term, our goal will be to adopt, create, and improve no-cost LMs that are OA, known as “open educational resources” (OER). By creating and improving OER, we will reduce the cost of LMs at other universities and improve their students’ success. This is not research impact per se but, rather, educational impact. Instead of silo our course materials, they will get used at other universities. The impact will be measurable in citation and altmetrics, such as pageviews, users, geographic reach and inclusion in syllabi. The goal is for all LMs to be OA.

However, not all “no-cost” LMs are “open.” For criminology, OER are in short supply. It will take money, time, and effort to create and improve OER for your courses. Success will be a few years in the making. But remember, the broader goal is making courses no-cost. We do not need OER to do that. Indeed, I think transitioning from for-cost LMs to OER requires an intermediary step: finding and adopting other types of no-cost LMs. The options include using LMs in the public domain, available via the library, or made via “fair use”; see table 3. We will take advantage of all three, on top of OER. Criminology’s classics are in the public domain, for example. As I am about to explain, the USC Library provides access to a wealth of useful LMs. When those options and OER fall short of our teaching needs, we can fill the voids by making fair use of copyrighted LMs.


Table 3. Types of no-cost LMs

Free to everyone to use

Free to select people to use

Public Domain Resources (PDR) have no copyright and thus freely accessible to everyone

Open Education Resources (OER) have a CC BY license and thus freely accessible to everyone

Library-Based Resources (LBR) are under copyright and made accessible only to patrons

Fair Use Resources (FUR) are under copyright and made accessible only to course members


Partner With the USC Library

In Year 1, the most rational way to move the department into no-cost learning—and eventually to all OER learning—is to use the USC Library. The plan is simple and within our control. It will get us a very long way to making the curricula no-cost. In our first year together, we will focus on the books of undergraduate courses.41 We will work with the library to purchase unlimited e-versions of currently used books and comparable ones.

Purchase Unlimited Access to Currently Assigned Books

Many instructors do not realize that the library provides unlimited access to eBooks. By “unlimited,” I mean there is no limit on the number of patrons who can use them; who can do so simultaneously; and for how long. As an example, I previously assigned Is Killing Wrong? in one of my courses. Its paperback is $25 on Amazon and more expensive at the GSU Bookstore. I discovered that the GSU Library had unlimited access to it, so I put a hyperlink to this free version in my syllabus and emailed the students a FYI. The effect of this small step was my students saved up to $5,000 per semester, as the course cap was 200 (and the course fills). I taught this course every semester for years, so the savings must have added up to a Bitcoin.

When I took over as Director of AYS Open, our first move was to have the GSU Library purchase unlimited e-versions of currently assigned books. This is the most rational starting place because it requires nothing of instructors and the cost-savings for students are immediate. For example, here is what we managed for CRJU courses in my college:42

  • We found five books already used in four courses (five sections) that could be purchased by the library as unlimited e-versions; see table 4.

  • The library purchased them for a total of $1013.94.

  • This saved our students up to $28,944.50 per semester.

That is a tremendous return on investment (ROI): for every $1 spent by the GSU Library, students saved $28.55. The total ROI multiples across semesters when the same LMs are used. Add the nonmonetary student success and you can see why thoughtfully transitioning to no-cost learning is the future.


Table 4.

Book

Retail price for students

Unlimited access price for library

Course cap

Maximum savings per semester

Politics of Injustice

$77

$231

120

$9,420

Cop in the Hood

$16.95

$47

260

$4,407

Hard Time

$59.95

$108.94

48

$2877.60

Legal Guide for Police, Constitutional Issues

$140

$330

45

$6,300

Briefs of Leading Cases in Law Enforcement

$132

$297

45

$5,940

Notes: “Maximum Savings Per Students” equals “Retail Price for Students” multiplied by “Course Cap.” The retail price for students is the cost of a new bound version (e.g., paperback).


Purchase Unlimited Access to Comparable Books

For Fall 2021, I looked at which of your department’s currently assigned books could be purchased as unlimited e-versions by the library. Unfortunately, the answer is none. (I do find that pretty amusing since it is key to my plan—a sense of humor is important!) Hopefully the same is not true for courses taught in the coming semesters, at the undergraduate- or graduate-level. Either way, this brings us to the second step for making courses’ LMs no-cost to students: work with instructors to identify books that can be purchased as unlimited e-versions and are good replacements for currently used books. This is rational because many instructors loosely use their assigned books, so they are fairly easy to replace with similar books written for the course (e.g., Policing, Corrections). This will not work for every instructor and every course.43 But certainly, it is worth seriously exploring the options, given the enormous ROI and positive effects on student success.

I looked at which of your current sections (i.e., in Fall 2021) are good candidates for that strategy. Recall that among your 34 sections, the LMs for 14 of them are listed as “Pending,” and two show as “No Materials.” For the other 18 sections, I used EBSCO Faculty Select44 to explore replacement options a that could be purchased as unlimited e-versions by the USC Library. Here is what I found:

  • The 18 sections use a total of 19 different books, as some are used in multiple sections, and some sections use multiple books; see appendix a.

  • For each book, I found a comparable one that could be purchased as an unlimited e-version.

  • If the library purchased 19 books at $500 each, the sum cost would be $9,500.45

  • The expenditure would save your students up to $192,255 per semester.

  • This would transform all 18 sections’ LMs to no-cost for students.

The ROI is incredible: for every dollar spent by the USC Library, students would save $20.24. And they would be more successful as a result. If you hire me, I will incentivize and help instructors to make their LMs no-cost to students. Eventually, I will give weight to it in annual reviews. In the nearer term, I will help instructors by sitting down with them as individuals. I need to learn your teaching philosophy and methods, including your selection and use of LMs. Those conversations will help us understand which path and timeline to no-cost learning is best for all of us—as a department and as individuals. I want to hurry, not rush (to paraphrase John Wooden). The pursuit of “free” should be done to increase the quality of education, not undermine it. It will take time to turn the curricula into Z-degrees. Along the way and after, the department will benefit. Remember, students are one of your core members, and they will be thrilled about the initiative. Donors will want to give the department money to support faculty time devoted to this initiative. We will work with the library to fundraise for their purchases and grow their collection. In time, colleagues at USC and in criminology will hear about what we did and will want to emulate us. They will see us as leaders.

Conclusion

Give me a chance. We will make your department better—your members happier. We will increase your impact and serve social justice. We will do a lot together. We’ll maximize our pleasure and minimize our pain. I promise you that. In the end, you’ll be like, “I’m happy we did this.” And I’ll be like, “Thanks for the opportunity to do it with you.”

Appendix


Appendix A. Savings on learning materials in Fall 2021 department sections by finding and purchasing comparable books as unlimited e-versions

Course Section

Required Book IISN

Buy similar book as LBR?

Maximum Savings Per Semester

Minimum Savings Per Semester

CRJU 101

001

9781544398730

Yes46

$20000

$9600

004

9781544307930

Yes47

$8500

$4200

Z1B

9780135770580

Yes48

$1875

$1875

CRJU 202

J10

9781544374055

Yes49

$5000

$4940

J11

9781544339122

Yes50

$6250

$3087.5

CRJU 311

001

9780134441924

Yes51

$10879.20

$5376

J11

9780134441924

Yes52

$10879.20

$5376

CRJU 312

001

9781305633735

Yes53

$14000

$5599.20


9781259670626

Yes54

$5386.40

$2376


9780316451512

Yes55

$2320

$464


9780312424572

Yes56

$1520

$1520

J10

9781305633735

Yes57

$14000

$5599.20


9781259670626

Yes58

$5386.40

$2376


9780316451512

Yes59

$2320

$464


9780312424572

Yes60

$1520

$1520

CRJU 313





002

9781337557894

Yes61

$11040

$5452.80

CRJU 322





J10

9781259920585

Yes62

$7537.5

$4950

CRJU 341





003

9780190935252

Yes63

$3599.550

$1777.50

J11

9780078140969

Yes64

$11500.30

$11500.30


9781506347561

Yes65

$7000

$3087

J12

9781544375731

Yes66

$6800

$5100


9781337091855

Yes67

$13125

$6483.75

CRJU 351

001

9781544375434

Yes68

$7500

$3600

002

9781544375434

Yes69

$8000

$3840

CRJU 420

001

9781544356037

Yes70

$3000

$1482.50

CRJU 421

001

9781506388519

Yes71

$3315

$1462.50

Total



$192,255

$103,109

Notes: “Max savings” is based on “Highest Cost Option x Cap” in table 2; “Minimum savings” is based on “Lowest Cost Option x Cap” in table 2. Courses with LMs that are “Pending” or “No Materials” in table 2 are removed from table 4. Ability to “Buy book as LBR” or “Buy similar book as LBR” is based on EBSCO’s Faculty Select.


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