without reservation

How to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds is something about which I think (and worry and strategize) a great deal.  I’m happy that this has emerged as a topic on this site and look forward to learning from your experiences and suggestions.

In the meanwhile, here’s something incredibly easy that we can all do:


Also, if you have extra copies of any of those books, put them on reserve, too.

This seems like one of those things that goes without saying (and, as such, it’s a little embarrassing to post it here, as if I think I’m a revolutionary for sending my course lists in to the reserve desk?!), but this morning I got an email from a student that included the following comment: 

“I really felt that you tried to make this class really accessible to all students
regardless of background.  For instance, it was wonderful that you put all the books on
reserve…so, I didn’t have to go crazy saving up for book money.”

So, in her honor, I’m posting this little reminder.   

6 thoughts on “without reservation”

  1. I totally agree.

    This semester my class had an open-book final exam. On the official form where we detail our final exam requirements to the university admin, there are boxes to tick for what material the students are allowed:

    (a) nothing
    (b) the textbook only
    (c) any books or notes, except library books
    (d) any material

    I ticked (d) and my colleagues were horrified. I pointed out that (c) disadvantaged students who couldn’t afford to buy their own copy of the book. Most of them had never considered that and instead had been concerned that (d) would disadvantage students who couldn’t get to the library quickly enough to withdraw useful material. I’d much rather favour the quick than the rich!


  2. Overall, I think it is important to distinguish economic disadvantage from educational disadvantage. They are correlated but not the same. Assigning books that are available used also helps costs, as does designing assignments so everyone does not have to be reading the same book at the same time. Assigning articles via electronic reserves (with paper copies on reserve as well) makes almost everyone happy except those who own the royalties. One could also foster book sharing schemes.

    Educational disadvantage is harder. There you need to offer moral support, extra coaching, networking to or working with support services on campus, etc.

    re reserves: To do this, you or your library has to buy the book. Ours no longer buys texts, due to budget cuts. But we have gone into electronic reserves in a big way.

    stylegeek: but there is only one copy of a library book, so (d) only helps if there is only one disadvantaged student in the class (or no more disadvantaged students than there are copies of the book). Perhaps allowing notes but not books is the fairer way to balance things more fairly?


  3. Styleygeek: I see your point and am sort of amused your colleagues didn’t, but olderwoman seems to me like she has a reasonable point about how many people could ultimately be helped by allowing library materials and so then it leading to a position of no books at all. Although I suppose if you say “notes only,” students could just copy large portions of books as their notes.


  4. Thanks, all, for your comments. The distinction between economic and educational disadvantage is an important one. One of the things I appreciate about Brandeis is that the University seems to provide significant support services for students entering with an educational disadvantage.

    In re: getting books to put on reserve – how many laws would one be breaking to put desk copies on reserve? I usually get 1 desk copy/20 books ordered by the campus books store. Even in a moderately sized class, that would provide a few copies for the reserve desk, if you walked them down and asked the library to put them on reserve.


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