FULLERTON (CBSLA.com) — A mathematics professor at Cal State Fullerton is in the middle of a heated controversy over whether he should be allowed to teach a textbook that is different from what his colleagues are using for the same course.
To make things even trickier, the professor wants to replace a text authored by his department’s chair.
Associate professor Alain Bourget was reprimanded after he introduced two texts — one that costs $76 and the other available for free — in his Introduction to Linear Algebra and Differential Equations course in 2013.
In doing so, he did away with a textbook co-authored by mathematics department chairman Stephen W. Goode and vice chairman Scott A. Annin that was used in the course for 25 years. That textbook costs $180 at the campus bookstore.
Bourget argued his text was not only cheaper, but more relevant to his students than the text authored by the department chair. He’s concerned that requiring professors to teach from a particular book infringes on the academic freedom of professors.
“If there’s something out there that is better and cheaper, I think we owe it to our students,” he said.
Some students agree that textbooks are too expensive.
“I can’t afford my textobooks,” Cal State Fullerton student Christine Gutierrez said. “I have to take pictures of them in the library. I can’t buy them.”
But defenders of the Goode-Annin text point to the large number of other schools — including USC — that also teach from the book as proof that it is of high quality. They also say the book is superior to others in preparing students for Cal State Fullerton’s higher-level mathematics courses.
The two sides continue to disagree on whether the Goode-Annin textbook is technically required under the department’s rules.
The math department in 1984 stated that it would use a single textbook for the course, but the Goode-Annin text was not published until 1991.
In a vote last year, the math department decided to require the Goode-Annin book for the introduction to algebra course.
However, Bourget said that policy was not in effect the last time he was invited to teach the course, in Spring 2014.
The issue has become a renewed source of controversy on campus after Bourget appealed his letter of reprimand last week as part of an effort to have his record expunged as he applies for full professorship.
A decision on his appeal will be made in the next 10 days.