Student Senate advocates for open textbooks and LGBT rights

GVL / Archive
Student Senate going around the room, sharing their experiences for the first week of the 2014 semester.

Laine Girard

GVL / Archive Student Senate going around the room, sharing their experiences for the first week of the 2014 semester.

Claire Fodell

The Student Senate at Grand Valley State University is working to increase students’ access to free textbooks online and to end hiring and firing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The senate passed two resolutions in support of the proposals at its meeting on Thursday.

Resolution W-14-03 states that Student Senate “strongly encourages” faculty members to consider using open textbooks for their courses and for University Libraries to expand its collection of open education materials.

“Open textbooks are educational materials that are made freely available online,” said Scott St. Louis, vice president of the educational affairs committee. “They’re free to look at it on a computer, and they cost usually $20 to $40 to print.”

St. Louis sponsored the resolution along with senator Adam Hukkala of the EAC. He said open textbooks might not be a viable option for professors in some departments, but the resolution will encourage as many professors as possible to review the option.

The results of the 2011 Campus Climate Study show that GVSU students have a need for this option. Of the students surveyed in the study, 57 percent admitted to having financial hardship at GVSU, and of that group of students, 69 percent said they had difficulty buying books.

Now that the resolution has passed, the EAC has more work to do before presenting it to professors that may be interested. The group will spend the semester researching the subject and figuring out how to present its ideas to faculty.

“The hope is that we can go through the University Academic Senate, get something worked out with the professors there, and hopefully be encouraging this for the 2015-2016 school year,” Hukkala said.

The EAC has been working on an open access campaign for more than a semester, and this is another step in the direction of creating free and open access to research and scholarly works for all students in Michigan.

Along with the open textbooks resolution, Student Senate also passed resolution W-14-02 to “encourage the Michigan Legislature to expand the protections of the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act and the related House Bill 5243 by prohibiting discrimination in hiring or firing on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression,” according to the language of the resolution.

The Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act was created in 1976 and prohibits discrimination in the hiring or firing of an employee on the grounds of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status. St. Louis said that although the act encompasses a large group of people, some remain left out.

“The problem with the Elliot-Larsen Act is that it doesn’t extend those protections to members of the LGBT community,” St. Louis said.

This resolution coincides with another that was previously passed by the senate in support of the passing of House Bill 5243. House Bill 5243 would extend the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to apply to the hiring and firing of interns.

“We wanted to make sure that we demonstrated that we are supportive of the extension of those rights to interns, but we would also like to see it extended to other people as well,” St. Louis said.

Both resolutions were unanimously approved by the senate.