Textbook Adoption Criteria

The committee to develop this criteria was struck by Hilts, under the direction of Higgins and Sullivan. They were directed to not even disclose the existence of the committee to the remainder of the department. Awareness of the committee and its work occurred in the afternoon on the day before the departmental meeting where the recommendations were to be adopted. I was shocked, as were many of my colleagues.

There were three iterations of Textbook Adoption Criteria.  

The primary reason for these Criteria was to prevent me from developing and testing my textbook. Hilts is in an obvious conflict of interest. He is an author with Pearson Education and had developed workbooks for use with General Chemistry, by Petrucci. It was realized that the first Textbook Adoption Criteria accidentally encompassed Hilts' own developing workbook. This was fixed in the second draft. With these criteria, Hilts was able to claim his developing workbooks as the most prestigious pedagogical project in the department (and faculty). As Chair, Hilts also covertly listed his workbooks as required resources for all sections of first-year chemistry. This continued even after the textbook changed — his workbooks were for a textbook no longer used at MacEwan, yet students were required to purchase them. Hilts' workbook sold for around 40 $. Knowing how much it costs to print a 180 page b/w workbook, I estimate that Hilts and Pearson Education shared around 20 $ in profit for each book sold. (two terms; 1000 students per term). My developing textbook, in electronic form, was free.


To: <TAC Committee members>
Subject: Textbook Adoption Criteria...
From: ΑΩ
Date: Thu, 06 Jan 2011, 09:33

Committee members

Below is background information that you likely will not get from Dr. Hilts or Dr. Higgins regarding the history leading to the formation of the your committee.

Dr. Hilts was explicitly supportive of the <my textbook> scholarly activity project and the use of <my textbook> in CHEM 10x sections I was teaching at MacEwan. He expressed this in correspondence dated 11 February, 19 June, and 04 July 2009. Only in October 2010 did he, without warning, change his mind. Dr. Hilts now denies his former support of the <my textbook> project. 

On Wednesday, 11 February 2009, Dr. Hilts stated via email, "...if you want more feedback, why don't you use your textbook for any CHEM 101/102 sections that you will teaching during the 2009-2010 academic year?"

On Friday, 19 June 2009, Dr. Hilts stated via email, "The answer to your predicament is clear: try the modified version of your textbook out on some CHEM 101 and 102 lecture sections."

Dr. Hilts and I met the next Tuesday, 23 June 2009, to discuss exactly how this was going to take occur, and this was summarized in my email of 02 July 2009. Dr. Hilts agreed to the meeting summary on 04 July 2009. (this meeting summary is attached)

Dr. Hilts approached me in October 2010 and asked me to list Petrucci as the primary textbook and <my textbook> as a supplementary 'workbook' (his word). His only explanation for why he was asking was because 'he was directed to do so by the Dean's office'. Dr. Hilts could not explain what was wrong with the current practice (in effect for over two years) and could not guarantee that there wouldn't be a future directive to ban all supplementary resources. At the 17 December 2010 departmental meeting, Dr. Higgins also would not guarantee that there wouldn't be a future point 9 in the TAC, "Only the required textbook can be used as the textbook for the course." This would, conveniently, prevent <my textbook> from being used and still permit Dr. Hilts’ workbooks.

I met with Higgins and provided the attached rationale for the use of <my textbook> at MacEwan (this is the same document that I distributed on 08 December and have copied below). Higgins recommended a committee be struck to develop a policy. 

As you are likely aware, I was shocked to discover that this committee was struck, met, and had drafted the TAC committee -- your committee. I was shocked because I was completely unaware of this committee. I assumed I would be consulted for my perspective, but apparently not. Your committee drafted the TAC knowing only one side of the issue and from a draft document apparently prepared by administration. I was also shocked that Dr. Hilts chaired the committee. Hilts is in an obvious conflict of interest since he is the co-author of the Petrucci Solution's Manual and the author of two workbooks based the Petrucci text.

Dr. Hilts has acknowledged that the TAC was struck specifically because of a supposed problem in CHEM 10x. Dr. Hilts has acknowledged that the Dean's office was involved with drafting the initial TAC and with making changes to the TAC after your last meeting.

The development of a science textbook is a multi-year project and student feedback is critical to developing a quality student resource. (Student input identifies areas that are difficult to understand based on the students existing knowledge, areas where the amount of information can be reduced, and a student perspective on how the content is developing.) With each iteration, student perception of the textbook should improve. (This is the case with <my textbook>, despite the Dean not wanting me to share this information at the departmental meeting.) Specific to <my textbook>, students are getting involved in the development: researching and writing material for the text and developing the solution's manual.

To emphasize the point that student feedback is critical, Dr. Peter Mahaffey (Kings University College) and two colleagues revised and tested a chemistry textbook for five years before it was published as a first edition. (They started with an existing, abandoned, textbook and updated it.) To emphasize that student feedback is critical, Dr. Mahaffey states, "colleagues at King's and elsewhere have been really helpful in working through preliminary materials and giving feedback that has helped to shape very much the final product." 

Students had concerns regarding the first draft of <my textbook>, specifically with the lack of a solutions manual and errors in the text. (Errors exist in all textbooks. Even Petrucci -- in its tenth edition -- has errors dating to before the seventh edition that are still uncorrected.) I am happy when errors are discovered, and I correct them!) If there have been recent student complaints, I have not been advised of them. Additionally, there is no evidence that student learning with <my textbook> in 2009/10 and 2010/11 is in any way deficient compared to students using Petrucci. Simply, the TAC is not driven by student and faculty complaints, it is an academic exercise designed to attack me and my scholarly activity. (Regarding student complaints -- I would not be surprised if student complaints start given some of the negative statements from certain faculty that I have overheard, conveniently within earshot of students.)

However you feel about <my textbook>, realize that the TAC will affect any MacEwan faculty member interested in developing instructional material at MacEwan. The TAC gives administration direct power over a faculty members scholarly activity -- quite a concern. Yet, MacEwan, with its focus on quality teaching, is endeavoring to establish itself as a SoTL center: 
 * The MacEwan Mission, Vision, and Mandate all recognize and support pedagogically focused scholarly activity 
 * The AGC University Wide Standards specifically list book and textbook development as scholarly activity. 
 * The Research and Faculty Development divisions of the Faculty Commons are endeavoring to stimulate SoTL at MacEwan.

Indeed, section 3.5.1 of the Academic Freedom policy (C5054) already recognizes that "Faculty members are to exercise this freedom [the selection of instructional material] responsibly within the frameworks of course syllabi and course practices established by faculty members." Section 3.5.2 recognizes that "teaching and curriculum development necessarily require significant coordination and the imposition of a certain degree of structure, as well a need for collaboration and agreement on such matters as general course content, syllabi, and examinations."

I have addressed both of these: my course content is the same and ordering is almost the same. (See my email to Dr. Higgins for details.)

I am not the only person with concerns. Many faculty and staff voiced their concerns at the 08 December and 17 December 2010 departmental meeting. Many people see the TAC as an attack on me and as an unnecessary policy being imposed by the Dean's office.

I ask that you, the members of the committee developing Textbook Adoption Criteria, recommend that this entire academic process be permanently abandoned. 

There is much more to say on this topic -- more correspondence, more arguments, more concerns regarding intent and process. I can provide additional details to you if you wish.

In closing, I wish to note that I am spending more time defending my scholarly activity projects than actually working on them. Several people believe that if the TAC isn't stopped now, future pedagogically focused scholarly activity at MacEwan is in serious jeopardy.


From: ΑΩ
Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2011, 23:54
Subject: Textbook adoption criteria...


Did you obtain copies of the textbook adoption criteria from other departments that Rob [Hilts] and David [Higgins] have been alluding to?


To: ΑΩ
Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2011, 05:12
Subject: Re: Textbook adoption criteria...

Hi ΑΩ,

Nope. But the committee suggested that any criteria developed be applied to all disciplines in science. In short, I don't think that any such documents exist, other than criteria for textbook review.


Contrasting this, Hilts, Sullivan, and Higgins told the harassment investigator that they considered my textbook development scholarly activity and were supportive of it.They likely didn't realize I would receive a copy of their submissions.