ASUC discusses COVID-19 student risks, digital textbooks

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One of the topics discussed during the ASUC’s general meeting was the Inclusive Access porgram, which would provide digital course content rather than printer texts. The material would be uploaded to bCourses automatically for courses that take part in the program, and students would be charged through university billing.

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At the ASUC’s general meeting Wednesday, the subcommittee on student risks and Inclusive Access program presented about the struggles students face and the shift to digitizing course content.

Karen Hughes, health educator at University Health Services, and Leona Chen, risk analyst with the campus Office of Risk Services, presented to get input from the ASUC senators on COVID-19 related risks they see emerging in their communities.

The subcommittee on student risk is composed of student leaders, two ASUC senators and campus faculty and aims to inform the chancellor and administration about current and possible risks students are facing.

“The main goal of this committee is to communicate with all campus stakeholders, network and leverage partnerships,” Chen said during the meeting. “Educating one another on what’s being done on campus, and really just collaborate on strategies and programming.”

Hughes added that the subcommittee plans to prioritize the most common risk the senators identify and then work together to take action against that problem.

ASUC Senator Ronit Sholkoff said one concern she has been hearing about is the confusion around what students are allowed to do as some are vaccinated and others are not.

Sholkoff noted it would be helpful for campus to provide concrete examples of which students are allowed to do upon vaccination and which regulations they should follow.

“How is campus also going to be aware of finding the balance between wanting to make sure that people are being safe, but also understanding that people, in general, are eager to be able to see family and want to be able to go back to some kind of semblance of normal life,” Sholkoff said during the meeting.

Katelyn Nomura-Weingrow, the ASUC’s director of marketing and creative programs, and Trey Prewitt, director of the Cal Student Store, then spoke about the Inclusive Access program.

According to Nomura-Weingrow, the program is a way to provide digital course content instead of printed texts, ultimately saving students 50% to 80% of their current textbook costs. She added UC Berkeley would be the last UC campus to implement this program.

If the program is implemented, Prewitt said individual instructors will have to choose whether they would like to use the program.

For the courses that adopt the Inclusive Access program, materials would be automatically uploaded to bCourses, and students would be charged through university billing, according to Prewitt. He added that students who drop the courses would not be charged.

Students who are waitlisted would also have access to the course materials, which Nomura-Weingrow said will help with the disenfranchisement waitlisted students often face. 

“Textbooks are moving to a digital platform whether we like it or not,” Nomura-Weingrow said during the meeting. “I know that a lot of students resell their textbooks at years end, that’s going to start to go away as more and more textbooks go digital anyway.”

Amid President Joe Biden’s recent signing of a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, ASUC Senator Julia Castro said she recently attended a financial aid meeting where it was confirmed that low-income students will be receiving funds next month.

Mela Seyoum is a student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @melaseyoum.