The University of Kansas Libraries, in collaboration with the Shulenburger Office of Scholarly Communication & Copyright, are pleased to announce that Noah Ries, 2018-19 KU student body president, has joined the inaugural Textbook Heroes cohort.
Textbook Heroes is a new initiative spotlighting KU faculty, staff, instructors and students who advocate for textbook affordability. Textbook Heroes are identified among those who have adapted, adopted, created or championed open educational resources (OER) and other low-cost materials for use in classrooms at KU.
Ries joins the first cohort of KU champions announced in spring 2019, including Drew Vartia, assistant teaching professor, Department of Chemistry; Amy Rossomondo, associate professor, Department of Spanish & Portuguese; and Peter Bobkowski, associate professor, William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications.
“When I announced that textbook affordability would be part of my presidential platform, KU students loved the idea,” said Ries. “It makes sense that in order to provide quality education, we need to make materials affordable.”
After taking office, Ries scheduled a meeting with Dean of Libraries Kevin L. Smith in hopes of learning about how the libraries were supporting such efforts. At the meeting, Ries was introduced to Josh Bolick, scholarly communication librarian and open access champion.
“In September, I didn’t even know what OER meant,” said Ries. “Kevin introduced me to this revolutionary idea and Josh was instrumental in my learning process.”
During his presidency, Ries attended the Midwest Higher Education Compact OER Summit and joined the university’s Textbook Working Group. Ries met with student body presidents from other Kansas institutions, the Kansas Board of Regents, as well as Chancellor Doug Girod and Interim Provost Carl Lejuez, with one message to convey: textbook affordability must be their priority.
“Students are dropping out because they can’t afford textbooks. They are going weeks without food, and some even described that they were rationing meals,” explained Ries. In a survey sent out to the entire student body, he was able to get a look at how rising textbook costs were affecting students on campus. “These are KU students. They deserve better.”
In addition to raising awareness among stakeholders and surveying students, Ries’ accomplishments include leading Student Senate to pass a resolution in support of OER in November and the establishment of a Student Senate Textbook Affordability Award in April.
“Bold, far-reaching advocacy like Noah’s to promote open textbooks is exactly what we need in the fight to make college more affordable,” said Kaitlyn Vitez, the higher education campaign director for national student advocacy group U.S. Public Interest Research Group, who helped design the KU survey and resolution. “Noah has done more than just help KU students — he’s made meaningful progress towards activating other student leaders statewide in this movement.”
Ries looks forward to what the next president, Tiara Floyd, will accomplish and how the libraries can support these ongoing efforts.
“All of my work started from the motivation and the wisdom of KU Libraries faculty and staff,” said Ries. “The future student body presidents and administrators must continue to make affordable textbooks a priority.”
The Textbook Heroes initiative is an ongoing effort, with new champions to be added each semester.
“We’re thrilled to acknowledge Noah’s pivotal role in the continued growth of open education at KU,” said Bolick. “He pushed the conversation forward in incredibly meaningful ways, and I look forward to working with future student leadership to carry that legacy forward.”