20 February 2007


Another uni update, this time about the expensiveness of studypacks and the political action following from that.

A couple of weeks ago, at the beginning of the new term and the publication of the new studypack issue for term 2, our student reps for Theory & Evidence in Contemporary Development announced that some people have expressed their dissatisfaction with the cost of the TECD studypacks (~ 26,50 £ x 2 per year). Students who also take the Global Forced Migration Studies lecture have to buy three studypacks (à 30 £) for that course alone in addition! Makes it around 150 £ for these two courses. If you are unlucky enough to attend another course where you have to buy studypacks, well...

So the student reps addressed this issue with the Development department which said that the prices are the copy costs only and that they don't make any profit from it but that they agree to provide a few copies as reference books in the library (reference means, they stay in there).

With this in mind, and since I didn't buy a studypack for TECD term 2, I tried to chase down these studypacks last Monday. I was writing applications, reading for my coursework and working under pressure to pay my rent during Reading Week, so - no holiday for me or time to do any reading(s)! I had four essential titles on my reading list.

#1 was quite a long paper which answered some but didn't really address the key question for the tutorial.

#2 was a case study, means, complementary to the theoretical articles but not addressing any questions either.

#3 was from a journal called The Lancet which is available online but only with "on-site access", means that SOAS has a subscription but only for SOAS computers. Same goes for

#4 which is actually on JSTOR but Human Rights Quarterly is not included in my subscription. However, again, via a SOAS PC, I could read the article. So, on Sunday I had to wait until Monday, then went to the library. But the PCs in there are set by default to a) not display an adressbar in IE, b) not install any USB devices including memory sticks and c) they are not connected to a printer. I did not want to read 35 pages on a screen without the possibility to underline passages or make notes. *frustration* The Electronic Resources Librarian said, I didn't have to use the library computers, I can also access the journals in the IT rooms. I go to the IT rooms. The first has a queue of six people in front of me while in the second, the printer was broken and being repaired.

OK, I thought, there are still the study packs for the people who cannot afford to buy them. So I went to the Faculty Office, they only keep reading lists. I asked for my tutor's room number, so I can ask him, she gives it to me but it turns out to be a study room for part-time and occasional staff. I decided to approach the course convenor, Jonathan Di John, but he is not in his office. The lecturer who covers the three refugee-related lectures in TECD (what the readings for this tutorial is about) is not even on the room list of Development Studies teachers. I went down the corridor, reading the name signs on the doors and wondering who else might now about this and stopped at the Head of Department who had held a few lectures in TECD. He says, if the student reps had been successful, he doesn't know anything about this. I said I will try to find the student rep and ask him about this and Alfredo said I should get back to him when I find out.

I went back to the Faculty Office for the e-mail adress of my student reps, they didn't have them, so I went to the Student Union Officer for Welfare & Education, Lauren, who was not in her office. By chance, the very student rep I was looking for was sitting not far away, in the flesh! He was surprised that they still haven't done that. So we went to Lauren who had just returned and this is where I found out about the Forced Migration study packs. We all agreed that these were exorbitant sums and Lauren promised to ask her library liaison about this (Will and I both received a copy of the e-mail exchange). I am not sure but I think she also wanted to contact someone who is responsible for print issues. I suggested that if everyone in the TECD class would donate 1 £, we could raise the money to buy one copy ourselves if the department has problems with the treasury. Will meant, there are around 50 people in that class, so even 50p would suffice to buy the pack. I found it quite ironic, that we from Development Studies discuss poverty alleviation etc. but are not able to meet the demands of our own students concerning resources.

Frustrated and a bit edgy, I went to my tutorial in the afternoon. Jeff, my tutor, asked his typical "How did you find the readings?" and I answered, "I didn't." I raised the issue in the tutorial, so other people could add their opinions. An irritating thing is actually, that Jeff seemed to find it quite funny that I didn't own a copy, he obviously thought, I haven't bought one because I didn't want to spend my money on it. He asked me, "How will you do your course if you don't have the readings?" and I said, I access them myself if they are online and print them or I copy them if they are in a book, to copy once a week is not as immediately expensive as to buy the whole chunk of a study pack at once. Jeff argued that it costs the same if not more (in economic theory maybe but not in reality, that's what I say) and I replied, that's the same with a house. You can buy a house and pay the whole sum at once or you can decide to pay for it in instalments. If it is so much cheaper, why doesn't everyone just pay for their houses at once? He laughed and looked at the cover of his study pack to check the price. "But this is just 26,5o £." - "That is a lot of money." - "This is London!" (as if that was something which supports his argument!). We had to procceed with the tutorial. After it, I addressed the issue again and got the same response, in general: Not expensive, not an issue, not my problem! *rolling eyes*

I am working three days a week just to have some-tiny-where to sleep, it keeps me from studying and doesn't even cover my food and he has the cheek to laugh at me and tell me, that after all the studypack is not expensive since this is London?!?

2 courageous comments!:

Kat said...

Overpaid bastard, I say... *hugs* Hope all will go well for you!

Heidi Jahn said...

yeah, i believe he is an economist. they believe in the survival of the fittest even though they teach alternatives to neoliberalism, don't they?
he said he has to do the readings too and i told him that he gets paid for that whereas i am not.

btw, we are now trying to get the student pack thing going and i also approached the head of department, let's see what he replies!