All Posts Tagged With: "University of Winnipeg"
#IdleNoMore, dumping Instagram & fraternity horrors
1. You’ve seen the #IdleNoMore hashtag all over Twitter, but do you know what it’s all about? Wab Kinew, Director of Indigenous Inclusion at the University of Winnipeg, offers his take in The Huffington Post. “It is a loosely knit political movement encompassing rallies drawing thousands of people across dozens of cities, road blocks, a shoving match on Parliament hill between Chiefs and mounties and one high profile hunger strike,” he writes. The hunger striker is Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat in northern Ontario. Kinew explains where the meme started and says the movement is about engaging youth, finding meaning, rights, the environment and democracy. His summary is worth reading. Also worth reading is The Charlatan‘s coverage of Carleton University’s panel discussion on the Indian Act with the Assembly of First Nations.
2. A lot of Canadians are deleting their Instagram accounts. The addictive photo-sharing service has changed its terms of service to allow it to sell users photos and data. “…you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you,” reads the new terms. The Guardian says it will give a boost to Yahoo-owned Flickr, which just launched a mobile app that doesn’t sell your photos.
Scientists simulate rover mission
Canada’s last asbestos mine, now winding down its operations, may have a new celestial calling — as a stand-in for planet Mars.
Quebec’s Jeffrey Mine hosted nearly two-dozen scientists recently for a simulated Mars mission initiated by Canada’s space agency.
The scientists from four universities made a pair of trips to the Asbestos region, this year and last year, accompanied by a micro-rover.
“There are definitely areas (on Mars) that are much more like what we have at Jeffrey Mine,” said Ed Cloutis, a University of Winnipeg professor who participated in the project.
The new vocation won’t exactly replace the once-mighty asbestos industry as an economic lifeblood for the region.
The mine had been counting on a $58 million government loan to renovate and keep operating. The simulated Mars mission, on the whole, cost $800,000 — and some local officials, including an alderman and the town’s director general, didn’t even appear to be aware of the project when contacted by The Canadian Press.
There are more options than ever, but they come at a price
This story is from the 132-page Maclean’s University Rankings, on sale now.
Katie Cvitkovitch, a second-year nutrition student at Ryerson University in Toronto, knows how to spot a healthy meal. One evening in September, she assessed the options in the dining hall on the first floor of Pitman Hall residence. For $13.25, she could buy a grilled chicken-breast sandwich, a side garden salad with fat-free dressing and a bottle of diet iced tea. It cost the same as the deadlier deep-fried version, with fries and a Sprite. As a former vegan, Cvitkovitch was pleased to see vegan shepherd’s pie beside the meat- and-potatoes version. Even the Tim Hortons on campus carries a vegan wrap. Cvitkovitch gives Ryerson’s food a high rating.
Her classmate Deanna Chong, also in nutrition, gives Ryerson decent marks too. She had no trouble finding a balanced meal: a turkey wrap, milk and a melon cup for $14.28. (Those with meal cards pay five to 15 per cent less.)
Still, neither student eats much at the campus dining halls or fast-food outlets run by Ryerson Food Services, the main food provider on campus. “Lunch is like 10 bucks and dinner is like 15,” says Cvitkovitch, “so that’s $25 a day that I don’t have.” A student who managed to spend $5 less daily for one academic year would save roughly $1,000.
Universities once had a reputation for offering unhealthy food, and not enough choice. But as the heat lamps and deep fryers are replaced with vegan alternatives and halal meats, some students say they have a new problem: it’s too expensive to eat on campus. Whether food is provided in-house (via a combination of school-owned franchises and old-style dining halls) or contracted out to a single institutional provider, universities are finding it difficult to meet the multitude of demands while also keeping prices in check. Continue reading The new beef with campus food
A photographic tour of the campus in Manitoba’s capital
This fall, Maclean’s photographed 24 of the 49 institutions featured in the 2013 Maclean’s University Rankings. Below, Marianne Helm shows you around the University of Winnipeg. Click on each photo to make it larger. Then check out the other 23 galleries by clicking here.
Dodgeball record, PETA billboards & Western homecoming
1. Students from the University of California Irvine shattered the Guinness World Record for the largest game of dodgeball this week with 6,084 players. The University of Alberta, a four-time record-holder, lost its standing. It had 4,979 players on Feb. 3. I bet they’ll try to get it back.
2. Western University’s homecoming parade will be held on campus today, rather than downtown. It’s because London Police won’t provide extra officers pro bono. (They may be busy anyway.)
3. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) will put up billboards near Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Ottawa schools this Thanksgiving holiday, reports The Canadian Press. The billboards will read: “Kids, if you wouldn’t eat your dog, why eat a turkey? Go vegan.”
How universities are embracing the Aboriginal baby boom
From the Maclean’s University Rankings—on newsstands now. Story by Ken MacQueen.
It’s one of those small things that’s actually very big. The University of Manitoba has a policy on smudging: the Aboriginal tradition of burning sage, sweetgrass or cedar as a way of setting a positive tone and purifying the mind. Say a love affair goes sideways, or a professor is unimpressed with your political science presentation, or it’s autumn on the reserve and here you are in Winnipeg, lonely and blue; well, retreating to a quiet place to wash yourself in the smoke of a smudge is a way to turn the page, to gain strength and clarity. The policy on smudging and pipe ceremonies is the product of deep bureaucratic thought, legal consultation and many meetings, because, of course, there are no-smoking laws. So, it’s complicated.
Prof. Pettigrew explains his support for more open urination
If you want evidence that universities are places where basic assumptions are questioned, check out this story about students in Regina and Winnipeg pushing for gender-neutral washrooms.
The point of such gender-neutral facilities is to provide a place for those who do not fit neatly into the normal divisions of male and female. If this seems confusing, consider the case of an old undergraduate buddy of mine who I will call “Andy.” Andy was, genetically speaking, female, but had her hair cropped short and liked to sport a Greek fisherman hat with a men’s shirt and jeans. She was tall and fit and if you were just passing by her on the street you would be hard-pressed to fit her into the usual categories of men and women. That, of course, was sort of the point. Once, a mean-spirited store-owner mistook her for an effeminate man: “You look like a girl,” he sneered.
Petition asks gov. for higher standards
“We’ve kind of been watching a train wreck,” University of Winnipeg math Prof. Anna Stokke told the Winnipeg Free Press last week. She’s talking about the fact that many education students aren’t getting the math they need in university and are therefore less likely to be able to teach elementary school students the subject, perpetuating bad math skills at a time when more jobs require them.
Most people aren’t aware that a student can get into a faculty of education with only Grade 12 consumer math, Stokke said. “I wouldn’t even call it a math course — it’s a life-skills course.”
That’s why she is circulating a petition demanding higher standards for education students. So far, 224 people, including professors, parents, students and teachers have signed the petition.
“Currently, many students enter education faculties in the universities in Manitoba with the least demanding of the Grade 12 mathematics courses,” reads the petition. “University math professors have found that students with this minimum requirement often have alarmingly weak mathematics skills and high levels of math anxiety…. It has also been documented that math anxiety in a classroom teacher may transfer to his or her students.”
University of Winnipeg Students’ Association AGM sees deficit continue to grow
The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) saw it’s deficit continue to grow after its annual general meeting last Thursday, reported campus newspaper The Uniter.
In a comment posted on The Uniter’s website, UWSA president Jason Syvixay explained that UWSA originally presented a budget for the 2011-2012 year with a projected deficit of $63 000, but that it will be amending the budget to address the concerns raised by students at the AGM. However, he wasn’t clear on what the budget would look like.
This comes after UWSA estimated running a $167 000 deficit by the end of the 2010-2011 academic year last September, due to the costs of running a daycare for U of W staff and students on campus and restructuring UWSA staff payment by switching from honorariums to hourly wages.
Thursday’s meeting saw a motion brought forward from the U of W Aboriginal Student Council to increase their budget from $6 800 to $25 000, which was passed after over half of the 100 students in attendance voted in favour of the increase.
Several student group leaders voiced their concerns with the motion, saying it was unfair to reward that kind of increase to one student group, though others argued that the ASC has faced underfunding in the past.
Another hot button issue addressed at the AGM was the proposal to close the UWSA-run Soma Cafe, which provides healthy, fair trade food options for the U of W community. The cafe hasn’t turned a profit since it was opened three years ago, and the organization had budgeted for its closure. However, student support prevailed as those in attendance voted in favour of allocating $150 000 of UWSA funds to keep the cafe open. Students who wanted to save the cafe argued that it was a valuable meeting space and that its closure would lead to several students losing their jobs, according to The Uniter.
A controversial motion was also brought forward by president Jason Syvixay to eliminate the position of CFS liason director, who argued that the director’s work should instead be integrated into the duties of all UWSA staff. The motion was postponed as there were no longer enough people in attendance to make quorum by the time the motion was presented.
New collective agreement includes 5.4 per cent increase to salary and benefits
“This collective agreement is both fair and fiscally responsible, and will ensure we are able to recruit and retain top-quality faculty, and addresses many important administrative issues for our faculty,” said U of W president and vice-chancellor Lloyd Axworhty in a statement released Friday evening.
The University of Winnipeg Faculty Association’s new agreement includes a 5.4 per cent increase to salary and benefits over the three year contract, though faculty will receive a 3.3 per cent wage increase once benefits are subtracted. Improvements to benefits include increases in Career Development Increments (CDIs), pension contributions, and travel and professional development accounts.
The faculty association had originally sought an 8.4 per cent increase over three years, while the university was offering a 3.7 increase over the same period.
The first year of the new contact, which ends Mar. 19, will see no salary increase for UWFA members, while the second and third year of the contact will see a 0.5 per cent and 2.8 per cent increase, respectively.
UWFA spokesperson Shannon Sampert said that there were 285 of the 350 members of the union set to walk the picket line before the strike was called off. A strike deadline had been set for 12:01 Thursday.
“They were ready to hit the bricks at 8:00 a.m,” said Sampert.
“When you have 285 people ready to go at 12:01, you want to make sure that you’re going to present a deal to them that they’re going to be happy with. You don’t call a strike off unless you have something that you think will be acceptable.”
Tentative agreement reached between faculty and administration at 11th hour
After an intensive 14 hour round of negotiations between the University of Winnipeg faculty Association and the administration, a tentative agreement has been reached, narrowly avoiding the first faculty strike in the university’s history. A strike deadline of 12:01 am had been set by faculty.
The new agreement will be brought to members for ratification on Friday.
UWFA spokesperson Shannon Sampert said she would not be able to provide further details at this point. Classes will resume as usual Thursday.
The faculty association was seeking an 8.4 per cent increase over a three year contract, while the university was offering 3.7 per cent.
‘Assume the strike is on unless the website says it’s not’ UWFA
“Assume the strike is on unless the website says it’s not,” reads UWFA “strike information website.” The site explains that members are invited to join the picket line at 8:00 a.m. Thurday morning, with picket lines organized for three downtown locations.
Meanwhile, the university announced yesterday that actuaries evaluating the university’s pension plan have revealed that an additional $3 million in pension contributions will be needed to cover shortfalls in the university’s pension fund, caused by the recession and the fact that employees are living longer, according to the Winnipeg Free Press.
However, UWFA spokesperson Shannon Sampert questioned the truthfulness of this revelation.
“Is this another way to scare us into accepting a wage freeze, so they can cover pensions?” Sampert said in an interview with the Free Press. “I’ve got to question the timing and whether this is truthful or if this is fear mongering. If it is, shame on them.”
Both sides are in talks with a conciliator appointed by the Manitoba government today.
Deadline delayed 24 hours to facilitate conciliation from province
The University of Winnipeg has staved off a strike for at least another day.
Faculty members agreed to postpone their strike deadline to Thursday, a stretch of 24 hours from the original deadline of 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, to accommodate the entrance of a conciliator from the Manitoba Government. According to the university’s website, a conciliator has been named, with both sides set to meet Wednesday morning.
“While this is a positive development, the University’s administration is concerned that a 24-hour extension of the strike deadline is not an adequate time frame to allow for a successful conciliation process,” reads a recent post on the university’s website. “The administration has requested that UWFA reconsider this decision and allow the conciliator to set the time frame for this process.”
Shannon Sampert, a spokesperson for UWFA, told CBC News that though conciliation may be taking place, a strike is still likely. ”It’s just the only way, it seems, that we can get these guys to take us seriously at this point in time. We’ve been without a contract for almost a year,” she said.
A rally was held in support of UWFA members Monday afternoon, where a crowd of around 300 U of W faculty members, students, and staff marched from the university campus to UWFA’s strike headquarters, according to the union’s strike website.
Both sides agree to seek conciliation
Talks between University of Winnipeg professors and the administration stalled Saturday afternoon, and now both sides are set to request a conciliator from the Manitoba government on Monday morning.
Negotiations to ratify a new collective agreement broke down after university administration rejected the University of Winnipeg Faculty Association’s request for a 8.4 per cent wage increase over three years. The university had previously offered a 3.7 pay raise over three years, in addition to improvements to benefits.
UWFA and the university have agreed to make the request to the province together, according to the Winnipeg Free Press. The university is asking UWFA to delay strike action, though a strike deadline is still set for Wednesday, Mar. 9.
The Free Press reported that UWFA has also requested a negotiator from the Canadian Association of University Teachers to represent them at conciliation. A rally has been organized by the faculty association for Monday afternoon, where faculty members will march to their strike headquarters.
Classes could be cancelled by March 9
“There was huge turnout and 90 per cent voted in favour of authorizing strike action,” University of Winnipeg Faculty Association president Kristine Hansen said in an interview, though she added that UWFA bargaining protocol prevented her from commenting on the issues surrounding the settlement. “I can’t guarantee anything or saying anything further than we’ve set a strike deadline. We’ve gone back to the table and bargaining is in process.”
Faculty members previously rejected an offer from the university that included wage freezes for the first two years of a four year contract, and increased pension contributions from senior faculty. The 350 members of the faculty association have been without a contract since March 2010.
“We’re doing our best and are committed to continuing to bargain with the UWFA main unit for as long as it takes to get to a settlement that’s agreeable for both sides that’s also fiscally responsible,” said U of W associate vice-president (external affairs) Dan Hurley.
The union held an information session for students today, and has another scheduled for Friday, March 4, to answer questions from concerned students.
Hansen said UWFA decided to organize the sessions “because we’re concerned about student’s interests and because we’re concerned that students understand that we’re not oblivious to their concerns by any means, but we’ll do anything we can to minimize any impact that might result for them.”
Faculty members at the session explained to students that in the event of a strike, faculty members can’t perform services they were paid to perform, such as grading assignments, but UWFA won’t police individual contact between professors and students. It was also pointed out that students were welcome to talk to their individual instructors about settlement issues, as they would not be speaking on behalf of UWFA but as a faculty members of the university.
James Moore, a fourth year theatre and film major at the U of W who attended the presentation, said that he felt frustrated with the lack of communication from the university. “It’s frustrating trying to hear a two-sided argument, when you’re only getting one side,” said Moore.
Hurley said that the university is working as quickly as possible to get information out to students about the contract negotiations. “Things have moved quicker than I think we had expected [ … ],” he noted.
“We will have a better picture next week to see if we will have a strike or not, and we’ll have more information for students. The bottom line is we’re working to ensure that students are not impacted in any way or a very minimal way by any labour action.”
The university is now posting updates on it’s website on the contract negotiations with UWFA.
Photo by girlgeek
Admin wants to freeze wages for two years.
University of Winnipeg faculty voted 65 per cent today to reject a contract offer from the university. At issue was the fact that the administration offered zero salary increases for the first two years of a four-year contract, and requested senior faculty increase their pension contributions. Official statements have yet to be released from either the university or the union. More details tomorrow.
UPDATE: The Winnipeg Free Press has comments from the union, which confirmed the vote, and from the admin which says it wants to keep bargaining.
University of Saskatchewan, University of Winnipeg projects hoping to produce medical isotopes receive combined $14 million from feds
Two prairie universities are set to lead the way in developing new ways to create medical isotopes that are less wasteful and friendlier to the environment. Projects at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Winnipeg that aim to create medical isotopes without producing radioactive waste that a traditional nuclear reactor usually yields received a combined $14 million from Natural Resources Canada, with $4 million going to the U of W project and $10 million to the U of S, according to the Canadian University Press. The funding was announced Jan. 24.
Medical isotopes are microscopic particles that can be injected into the body to diagnose heart diseases and treat certain types of cancer, and are also used for detailed medical imaging. A large portion of the world’s supply is produced in Canada by the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor in Chalk River, Ont., which is currently the country’s only facility that produces medical isotopes. When the reactor was closed in 2007 for maintenance, it resulted in an international shortage.
The reactor was again shutdown in 2009 and not able to start up again until 2010. Since these problems occurred, the National Research Council has been searching for alternative ways for medical isotopes to be produced.
David Walker, leader of the U of W project Prairie Isotope Production Enterprises (PIPE), explained that the project already has a “ready-made facility”, as it will be using a former Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) facility outside of Pinawa, Man. Walker said the team hopes to be ready to produce the medical isotopes using their method by 2012.
The U of S Canadian Light Source (CLS) Medical Isotope Project may take more time than its Manitoba counterpart to get its research off the ground, as it requires a linear accelerator to be installed, and the space set to be used for the project to be made more accessible to the research team, said the project’s lead investigator Mark de Jong.
Long term effects of bottled-water bans are unclear and concerning
Over the summer, Bishop’s University, became the first university in Quebec to ban the sale of bottled water on campus. And there’s a good chance that Concordia, Quebec’s largest English-language university, will follow suit. But is an outright ban on bottled water really the way to go?
Now, I’m no fan of bottled water, I know that plastic bottles are bad for the environment and it’s a huge rip-off. The bottled water sold at Concordia is just regular old Montreal tap water. I’d much rather bring a reusable water bottle and save the 2,000 per cent markup. Pepsi pays the city $2 for every 1,000 liters, according to CBC. That’s less than one cent per bottle.
But, while I’m not going to be buying bottled water myself, I’m not sure that an outright ban is such a good idea. There still are a lot of unanswered questions about the long-term effects these bans will have.
Will banning bottled water lead to increased consumption of other bottled beverages, like pop and sports drinks? The anti-bottled water advocates claim “there is no evidence to suggest that without bottled water, people will consume unhealthy beverages such as colas.” The problem is these bans are all extremely new. Sure there’s no evidence that they will. But there’s no evidence that they won’t. The quote above comes from a study at the University of Winnipeg released before a bottled water ban was even fully implemented.
It’s quite likely that students who say forget to bring a reusable bottle — or who don’t want to — now don’t have the choice and are forced to purchase unhealthy drinks. I’ve definitely been in the situation where I haven’t had a reusable bottle with me and I’ve bought a bottle of something, not because that’s what I wanted to drink but because I wanted something to fill up with tap water and, anecdotally, I’ve heard similar stories from other students.
Bottled water bans have often been coupled with the distribution of reusable bottles, but this also raises some issues. Several years ago students attending an orientation event put on by the Concordia Student Union were required to buy reusable coffee mugs for their beer (the mugs were sold for something like $1). After the event the street was littered with reusable mugs.
While hard numbers are hard to pin down, it takes somewhere between 500 and 1,000 uses for a reusable mug to have less of an environmental impact than a disposable one. Certainly the numbers would be different for water but the fact remains that reusable bottles require a lot of use for them to have less of an environmental impact than disposable ones. Think of how much more plastic or metal goes into the manufacture of a reusable bottle.
And if we’re banning bottled water because of the environmental impact of plastic bottles shouldn’t we be banning everything else that comes in plastic bottles? A bottle of cola is just as bad as a bottle of water. So where do we go from here? What’s going to be banned on campus next?
UWinnipeg valedictorian should have left her protest against an honourary degree for Vic Toews outside
The convocation ceremony at the University of Winnipeg this past Sunday became more than just an educational rite of passage when valedictorian Erin Larson took to the podium. “While I’m immensely proud to be an alumnus of the University of Winnipeg and extremely honoured to have been selected valedictorian,” Larson began, “I have to admit I’m not proud to share the stage with everyone who is on it today.”
Behind Larson sat Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who was being awarded an honourary degree by the University of Winnipeg. Toews, who is staunchly opposed to gay marriage, abortion, and other positions sure to reckon him unpopular at a university, stared at his program while Larson continued her valedictorian address.
“I feel the University of Winnipeg has recently suffered a profound loss of integrity due to the actions of the administration,” Lawson continued. “The decision to give an honorary law degree to someone who is best known to my generation of students as being a vocal opponent of expanding human rights is questionable at best.”
The decision was indeed a dubious one for the liberally-reputed University of Winnipeg. Some students, in fact, chose to forgo their walk across the stage in favour of a protest outside the university, where about 40 people gathered holding placards condemning the university’s bestowment of the honorary doctor of laws degree on Toews. It was inside, however, in front of hundreds of alumni, students, family and friends, where Larson chose to make her beliefs known.
She had every right to do so, of course. As valedictorian, those few minutes were her own, to do with whatever she pleased. Though just because we have the right, say, to wave an aluminum rod around amid a lightning storm, it doesn’t mean the idea is suddenly a good one. Larson began her speech commenting on her desire to properly reflect the sentiments of the graduating body, yet continued by expressing her own profound disappointment with the university’s honourary degree decision. Was she speaking on behalf of the student body? Or momentarily abandoning her pledge to do so?
In any case, a valedictory address should not be a political soapbox. While it could be said that granting an honourary degree to a cabinet minister is a political statement in itself, the valedictorian’s speech is not the time to initiate forthright political debate, particularly in front of friends and family who have come to watch their graduate cross the stage.
Larson’s approach simply comes off as crass. She could have joined the group of protestors outside the convocation, or declined her role as valedictorian, a move that would have sent the same point without hijacking the event to tout her ideological message. While holding your breath and plugging your ears is sometimes championed as valiant political activism amid the cozy walls of the university campus, the real world expects some tact when trying to make a political statement. (Well, except in the House of Commons.)
Larson made a point of mentioning the university’s mission statement while drilling home her position, reading that it strives to “Offer a community which appreciates, fosters and promotes values of human dignity, equality, nondiscrimination and appreciation of diversity.” Yet Larson, trying to emphasize that the university has forfeited its integrity by bestowing an honour on a man who doesn’t represent its mission statement, inadvertently forfeits her own by resorting to a tactless, ill-timed public statement. Whether or not you agree with Toews politically, subjecting him to public humiliation certainly does not further any efforts to promote “human dignity.” Though compassion and tolerance for ideological diversity–maybe that’s something one picks up in post-grad.
Textbook rentals have stormed onto Canadian campuses, but not without some opposition
Shocked by the nearly $1,000 you dropped on textbooks this fall? Maybe it’s time to rent. Big business at American universities, textbook rentals have stormed onto Canadian campuses, but not without a little opposition. While the idea may prove popular with some students, a limited number of titles available for rent could see the program unavailable to many others. As for publishers, many are squirming from what they say could be an administrative nightmare that will eat into their finances.
Six university and college book stores, run by Follett of Canada, are participating in a pilot textbook rental program, called Rent-a-Text. They include stores at Carleton University, the University of Winnipeg, Humber College’s Main and Lakeshore campuses, and St. Clair College campuses in Windsor and Thames. Michael Clark, who runs the U of W bookstore says students who decide to rent can expect to save at least 50 per cent per title. With about a quarter of the store’s titles being eligible for rent, he estimates that could translate into $200 or $300 in savings for the average student. “I think once it catches on, it’s really going to catch on,” he said. Students will typically rents books on a per semester basis.
Stores say they are choosing books for rent that are popular and that have put out recent editions, to ensure they will be used for several semesters. “We’re hoping the professor will use it for three years,” Ed Kane, Carleton’s assistant vice-president (university services) explained. Even if professors won’t commit to a rental title, or change their minds, Follet will be able to rent the book at one of its other stores.
The company, which runs 35 stores in Canada, piloted the program at seven American campuses last fall and has since extended that to more than 750. According to numbers released by the company yesterday, Follet stores have rented more than one million books over the past three weeks, a savings to students of $45 million the company claims.
The market for rented textbooks has been steadily growing in the U.S. since at least 2001 when Chegg.com, a book renting website modeled off of Netflix, launched. Bricks and mortar retailers are only now starting to catch up with their online counterparts.
The National Association of College Stores (NACS) estimated that only 200-300 of its members were renting books last September. They now peg that number at more than 1,500 American campus stores. Barnes and Noble, which operates 636 campus bookstores, also piloted a rental program, beginning with three stores last September, and expanding to 25 by this past winter.
However, renting textbooks is still relatively rare, even in the United States. A May survey of 500 students by the NACS, found that only 12 per cent had rented textbooks, though about 44 per cent said they would consider it. Another 36 per cent were unsure, and 20 per cent said they would not choose to rent. Of those who rented, 72 per cent said they would rent again.
Although textbook renting is new to Canada, Carleton and the U of W won’t be the first universities to enter the market. Last fall the University of Manitoba Students’ Union started a book rental program, and is continuing it this year. Although the UMSU plan is on a much smaller scale—renting only three titles—union president Heather Laube says it is still saving students thousands of dollars. “We had a high success rate last year with very positive feedback and a smooth return process overall,” she said.
In the spring, the University of Toronto Bookstore put six books up for rent, and has now expanded that to more than 100 titles. When the program was first launched, the bookstore rented one book for every four sold. The non-profit bookstore will be renting textbooks for a little more than Follet stores, at around 60 per cent of the retail price.
Campus bookstores will also be facing competition from book renting websites geared towards the Canadian market. Brad Dolan, who graduated with a business degree from Carleton in 2008, started an online rental company called BookMob. Dolan says students will save between 50 and 80 per cent off the retail price.
BookMob boasts being “the first service of its kind,” but another website, textbookrental.ca, also launched this summer. Michael Stock, who completed his business degree at York University in the spring, started the company with the help of Toronto accountant Gershon Hurwitz, to capitalize on the budding textbook rental market. “We identified that no one was doing it in Canada,” Hurwitz said.
While renting may prove to be a boon for retailers, who can rent the same title over and over, some publishers are concerned that rental schemes could hurt their finances, if they are not compensated. Paul Cercone, executive director of McGill-Queen’s University press, told industry magazine, Quill and Quire in June that he is worried about author royalties. “I would want to know exactly what they have in mind to see if it’s advantageous for me,” he said.
Colleen O’Neill, of the Canadian Publishers Council, told the magazine that rental programs have been an “administrative nightmare” for publishers down south.
Follet didn’t consult with publishers prior to offering books for rent and does not pay additional royalties. “Rent-A-Text is driven by our own inventory of both new and used books. We purchase new from publishers,” Elio Distaola, Follet’s director of campus relations, stated via email.
However, profit sharing and royalties agreements, to compensate publishers when a textbook is rented, are not uncommon. Cengage Learning pays publishers a royalty for every time a book is rented, and McGraw Hill supplies Chegg with a limited number of titles for rent in exchange for a portion of revenues.
Despite potential savings to students, renting will not always be the optimal option. An internal U of T survey did reveal that 66 per cent of students were interested in renting textbooks, but 81 per cent indicated they would be interested in buying second hand. Owning a book is often desirable because it can be used for future reference. In other cases, a book may be required for multiple terms rendering the renting option uneconomical.
There is also some dispute about exactly how revolutionary the idea is. Students have always been able to sell their used books back to bookstores, in what amounts to a “quasi-rental” exchange. One bookstore manager pointed out to the Chronicle of Higher Education that if a book has a retail price of $100, a student may be able to rent it for $40, or buy it used for $75. The buy back option may see $50 returned to the student. Although, there are usually only a limited number of books that stores will buy used.
Because only a fifth to a quarter of textbooks may be available for rent from any given store, not all students may even have the option. Zach Janzen, a second-year environmental studies student at the University of Winnipeg, was hoping to rent three books this year. “But it ended up that none of them were for rent,” he said. Instead he purchased two books second hand, one for $80 and the other for $90. Another he purchased brand new for $150. A fourth book Janzen wanted was available for rent, but it cost only around $20 to buy, so he bought it.
Distaola admits that renting will never fully supplant the market for new and used books, nor is it intended to. “It’s about creating options for students.”
Related: Why textbooks are so expensive