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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

A UF council made recommendations to clean up a textbook-royalty policy for UF faculty members who assign books they authored in courses they teach.

Carol Murphy, a French professor and UF's Academic Policy Council chairwoman, said the updated policy, presented at Thursday's meeting of UF's Faculty Senate, clears up ambiguity with new requirements that protect students and authors' legal rights.

Rick Yost, UF Faculty Senate chairman, said the council, which was charged with updating the policy about a year ago, has made reasonable recommendations.

The current policy, which Yost said "isn't modern enough," requires that professors report whether they have a financial interest in the materials assigned in their classes.

Murphy said faculty may continue to accept royalties on authored materials after the college's dean and department chair approve evidence that a national market has adopted the textbook.

Faculty should continue to report financial interests, and they must also show that choosing a textbook is primarily for academic reasons.

"No one doubts faculty would do anything other than that," she said.

The council cleaned up ambiguity in the language with a new "50 percent" rule. If half of a textbook's sales come from outside UF, faculty members are within their legal rights to collect royalties.

This rule would help protect students from being forced to buy a certain book without it being in their academic best interest, she said.

"Students will be happy with this," Murphy said.

She said the policy changes would be fair to faculty as well, and she wants people to realize there's nothing wrong with faculty accepting royalties from a textbook under fair conditions.

It's "pretty prestigious" to take a class taught by an instructor with a nationally adopted textbook who is established in his or her field, she said.

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The council also adjusted a few other policy rules, such as one that required copies of faculty members' textbooks be kept in UF's libraries.

Murphy said members of UF's law school convinced the council that the requirement could interfere with legal rights.

The council recommended that UF get rid of it, especially because the books also take up library space and raise uncertainties about how many copies would be sufficient.

In addition, the council asked faculty to "take price into consideration" when assigning course materials because of rising textbook costs.

The council also suggests creating an advisory board to deal with these "gray areas" as they come up.

Murphy said she didn't know how many UF faculty members used textbooks they authored.

The policy update still requires approval by UF's Faculty Senate.

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