Student senate column: Making education more accessible for all

Malayna Hasmanis

One frequent dilemma that many college students face is in regard to managing time to sleep, get their assignments submitted onto Blackboard in time and finding some way to budget to pay for the sky-high costs for textbooks. Often times, this leads students deciding if they should live off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the next month in order to scrape by and pay for their textbooks for that upcoming semester. If we are paying so much for tuition already, then why is it that institutions throughout the U.S. are deeming it justifiable to pay over $500 for a single textbook?

With being a student, you are bombarded by a plethora of details and circumstances that relate to educational affairs and how it may affect your academic journey.

On student senate, there is a committee specifically dedicated to just that, the educational affairs committee. It is through this committee that six senators dedicate their time to exploring the various aspects of academics, whether that is allowing for there to be a new developed minor, such as the human rights minor that is in the stages of development this year, to seeking out ways to create foreign language cognates to be created on the grounds of American Sign Language courses, there is much in the works for this committee.

The educational affairs committee also focuses on educational initiatives, such as Open Access. Open Access is a nation-wide initiative that focuses on removing those financial barriers that are placed both on textbooks and research materials (articles, databases, etc.) in order to allow for students to expand on their knowledge and academic development.

Grand Valley State University is nothing short of proactive in this endeavor as there are professors who have tirelessly worked toward this project to create textbooks that are a quarter of the cost they would be if they were sold through competitive publishers. For example, the chemistry department is seeking out an opportunity to provide an Open Access textbook for students enrolled in CHM 115/116 courses that is $50 for the printed version and is practically free online. This is a remarkable advancement in our access to education.

Student senate’s educational affairs has sought out a way to create a campus-wide tradition to parallel the nationwide holiday in accordance with this initiative: Open Access Week. Throughout this week, there was tabling that provided resources for students to learn more on what this idea truly encompassed and how they can get involved.

In addition, there was a panel discussion offered that brought together six faculty and staff who have worked tirelessly to make this dream a reality for students and eradicate such hardships. We are hopeful that we can continue this for years to come so that we are able to truly create a more united front on this issue.

With ideas that form the foundation for Open Access, I feel as if many people forget that students are the catalyst behind these movements. We have so much power than we actually think we do to unite together, to empower to one another to stand up for what is right and tear down these walls that stand between us and an education, so that there is no longer a placed hierarchy in our society that deems some worthy and able to access such knowledge and leave others at a disadvantage. Open Access is our way to unite and grow together to be better students and better members of society as one.