This is an archived collection of posts describing how with the help of many others, Wiki Knights was able to prevent UCF switching to an opt-out textbook billing policy.
January 14, 2021 – Introduction
In the next few months, UCF administration will make a decision about moving to an ‘opt-out’ policy that would automatically charge students for textbooks in their enrolled classes. This means that students would have to manually ‘opt-out’ of this automatic billing by the end of the first week of classes, a process that may be difficult to navigate. Since many students do not regularly check their UCF charges, an extra fee like this may be easily overlooked.
Q: What is ‘opt-out’ and ‘opt-in’?
An ‘opt-in’ system is when a user is not automatically enrolled into said system. You manually choose to join. In contrast in an ‘opt-out’ system a user is automatically enrolled (without being asked) and must manually decide to leave if they do not want to be charged. The goal of publishers in this case is to increase textbook sales made directly through the bookstore (with marked-up prices at around 25%), knowing that there are roughly 30% of students who take no action to buy their materials in that first week of class and will be automatically billed / ‘opted-in’ to the First Day program unaware of the charge until it’s too late.
The textbook policy, as it exists currently, is called First Day. It is an ‘opt-in’ system, and it can, in some situations, save money due to the partnership between the university and textbook publishers. It allows the cost of textbooks to be automatically billed to the student’s account if the student chooses to participate in the program, rather than having to pay at the time of purchase. This change to an ‘opt-out’ system leaves those students that haven’t made a decision in the first week to now be forced into one. Why not stay as an opt-in system?
To show opposition to this policy proposal, Wiki Knights is organizing an email campaign to contact the administrators who will be spearheading this decision. We hope that students from UCF will be a part of voicing their concern and stop UCF from switching to an opt-out system. Policies should be written for the interest of students at UCF; not publishing companies.
To join Wiki Knights for this campaign please follow the link below:
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CUSR0000SEEA
Since 1970, textbook prices have grown exponentially due to textbook publishers lobbying to raise costs and support their business as a whole. This has been the case for over four decades, however in the last few years this has finally begun to plateau. Organizations trying to keep higher education affordable like the U.S. PIRG and OpenStax have begun to gain more public support and have been able to keep the cost of educational materials from growing further. However, this is still an ongoing battle.
Textbook publishers, in turn, have turned to strategies like automatic textbook billing as a way to increase textbook purchases. This is still an ongoing fight for free, accessible education, and since students are the ones buying textbooks, they should also have a voice in where those textbooks come from.
In June 2020, the Florida Senate passed legislation (page 14) that allows partnerships between universities and textbook publishers to use an opt-out system. This gives UCF the opportunity to switch First Day to an opt-out system, like many universities across the country have already done with similar programs. We hope to show UCF the student perspective and give a reason to vote against it at this time.
Our last email campaign was successful:
Wiki Knights is a student organization here at UCF. We specialize in raising awareness of open-source textbooks for courses. Just last semester, we asked students to help us with our first email campaign and convinced a psychology professor to switch to an open-source book. This was a huge win as students were able to voice their concerns and make a difference. This time, we ask the community again to convince UCF to not adopt this opt-out policy.
What you can do today:
- Email the administration to show opposition to this policy proposal. To be a part of this email campaign, follow the link below and follow the instructions provided. Thank you!
- Become a part of this growing movement, we are also looking for new members to join us in our efforts to make education more affordable, and we would love to hear what you have to say. Check out the Wiki Knights Discord server (https://discord.gg/7z2zR3e) to learn more!
Thank you for participating in this initiative that has the potential to save students thousands (if not millions) of dollars in the years to come. Go Knights!
February 12, 2021 – Article from NSM Today
March 8, 2021 – Petition
UCF is considering a policy change that would allow the bookstore to start automatically charging students for their textbooks when they enroll in a course—without requiring their permission or prior knowledge to do so. This process is called an “opt-out” inclusive access billing system.
Currently, UCF has an “opt-in” system where students can choose to be automatically billed for discounted course materials, but under an opt-out system, students will have no choice before they’re billed. Instead, the university and bookstore will send students a bill along with tuition and other fees whether they’re aware of it or not.
UCF is one of the only universities remaining that still has an opt-in policy, yet across the country we are starting to see students and legislators pushing back to get their institutions to STOP AUTOMATICALLY BILLING STUDENTS WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT.
Sign below with a UCF email if you believe that UCF should stay as an opt-in textbook billing system and that the bookstore does not have the right to automatically charge students.
To: President Cartwright and Provost Johnson
From: [Your Name]
We are signing to show opposition to the university adopting an opt-out, automatic textbook billing program. We do not believe that the bookstore should have the right to automatically charge students for educational materials without their explicit consent. We fear that a billing system like this would be predatory towards the student body and gives publishing companies more unnecessary financial power over students.
President Cartwright, when you are presented with the choice on whether or not to adopt an opt-out system, we ask you to to reject it and stay with the current opt-in system instead. Thank you.
April 9, 2021 – Protest
If you signed our petition, thank you. If you’ve helped us phone bank to President Cartwright, thank you. Pearson, McGraw Hill, and Cengage have been pushing an automatic textbook billing policy on the university for the past year. Sadly, it looks like this pressure from textbook companies is working because it looks like UCF is heavily considering adopting the policy. Link here. To show that students are not in support of this policy change, Wiki Knights is organizing a march to protest the adoption of opt-out (automatic textbook billing).
When it will be:
April 9th at 2:30pm
Where will it be:
We will start at the beginning of Memory Mall. We will then march to the reflection pond to deliver the petition to President Cartwright’s office.
Thank you all knights and charge on. We hope to see you there.
April 10, 2021 – Official Statement from UCF
During the protest, members of Wiki Knights delivered the “Stop Opt-Out” petition to President Cartwright’s office. The chief of staff agreed to release a public statement stating that the university would not implement the opt-out, automatic textbook billing policy, that had been under review this past semester. In short, the opt-out policy will NOT be implemented at UCF because of student activism against it.
Thank you. Thank you to the 1,228 students and alumni who signed the petition to stop this policy from being adopted, thank you to everyone who joined Wiki Knights in phone banking to stop this policy. Thank you for everyone who joined the focus groups to voice opposition to opt-out and a big thank you to everyone who came to our protest yesterday. Because of all of these efforts, the university heard the student body and listened.
I want to personally thank members of the Wiki Knights student organization who made this possible from day one: Brissa Loayza, who has been exceptional at organizing our social media campaigns and working with other RSOs to stop this policy. Jerrett Longworth, who has been a long-time member of Wiki Knights and couldn’t have been more supportive of our efforts. He was at the first focus group along with myself fighting to stop this policy. I want to thank Ian Thomas, Tyler White, Yohan Hmaiti, Melanie Ehrlich and Darby Goodwin for passionately standing up for students in their focus group session and in campaigning for the petition and at the protest. Lastly I want to thank Kevin Kurz and Aiden Duffy for their help in yDSA to help Wiki Knights with this campaign.
Because of all of your efforts, the University will stay as an opt-in billing system and students will not be automatically charged for textbooks. Thank you all for this incredible accomplishment. I am so proud of every one of you.
John Martinous III
President and Founder of Wiki Knights UCF
The University of Central Florida and its supplier of textbooks and other course materials, Barnes & Noble College, offer a program called First Day, which provides discounted digital course materials to students enrolled in many courses. This semester, students who participated in this program saved an average of 48%.
Currently, UCF students must “opt-in” to participate in this program. Last year, state law changed to allow universities to choose either an “opt-in” or “opt-out” model for these discounted course materials. Under an opt-out model, students would automatically be enrolled in this program and would have to manually opt-out to avoid charges being added to their student accounts.
UCF is not changing its current opt-in model. The opt-in model requires students to manually choose to participate in the program and receive discounted course materials.
First Day is just one part of UCF’s Affordable Instructional Materials (AIM) initiative, which focuses on reducing students’ course material costs. Many Library-Sourced digital textbooks are made available to students at no cost. And Open Educational Resources (OER) are course materials in the public domain or released under an open license free of charge. Together with First Day, these programs have saved students more than $11 million since 2016.