Is Stacey Campfield a Communist?

Campfield is trying to pass a law that would allow college students to not buy the assigned books for their classes if those assigned books are written by their professors.  I’m having a great laugh at this, just trying to imagine how the hell UT or other state schools are supposed to recruit top talent and then turn around and tell them that their expertise isn’t valued in the classroom.

I mean, shoot, if the guy who designed your car wanted to show you all the nifty features it had, you wouldn’t be all “Oh my god, the designer of the car is only trying to tell me what he knows so that he can make a profit! I demand you give me someone who doesn’t know as much about this car to tell me about it!!!!!!”

But the best part is the comment he left at the bottom of this story.

I tried to make clear to the reporter the bill would not stop the professor from possibly requiring a book they authored. It would only keep them from directly profiting from that sale. They could still require the book then forgo the kickback they get from the book publisher for their classes sales.

That “kickback” is called “royalties.” That’s what you get paid to write a book. Is your paycheck a “kickback” from your employer? Does Campfield really believe that college professors should just write books for the good of the world and not be payed the fair market value for their work?

And is Campfield aware that only textbooks are moneymakers? People who write monographs often don’t make any money off the books. So, will they have to report their contract status to Campfield?

I just love how telling people what money they can make and how they can make it are supposed to be bad things under Tennessee conservative ideology until the people making it are academics and then, whoa boy, the Republicans better get in there and run things like Soviets.

But, let’s look on the bright side. If this passes, the lawsuits that fly are going to be incredibly interesting. Is it a first amendment issue for a state to tell a professor what she can and can’t use in her classes? Can a state interfere in the contract between an author and a publisher like that? If the publisher isn’t in Tennessee, can the state dictate to the publisher how the royalties are distributed?  And probably stuff I haven’t even thought of here.

But damn. “Kickbacks.” Yes, when you get paid for the work you do and Campfield likes you, it’s called a paycheck. When you get paid for the work you do and Campfield doesn’t like you, it’s called a kickback.

That is hilarious.

22 thoughts on “Is Stacey Campfield a Communist?

  1. Pingback: Banning Profs From Telling Students To Buy Their Books : Post Politics: Political News and Views in Tennessee

  2. The real money quote is in the article: “They have come out and said this could hurt our professors’ earning capacity. It is proof positive that there needs to be a change.”

    Shorter Stacy: “Liberal academics are making money, and somebody needs to put a stop to that.”

  3. At most universities, a prof needs to make a case before an ethics review board before assigning his or her own textbook. He or she must persuade the review board that this is really the right/best text for the objectives of the course. Once that review is satisfied, then the royalties are often directly channeled to a college account set up for that purpose; at UT, that’s the University of Tennessee Research Fund and at Vandy, that’s the Vandy Research and Development Corporation. It appears that Stacey is again trying to foolishly legislate something that is already being done. I mean, I agree with all you say, but when you back up a step farther, you realize that if Quick Draw had bothered to use Google or picked up a telephone, he could have known that this issue was already being handled internally by the institutions themselves.

    Even outside the big universities, it’s unusual for a professor to benefit directly from the assignment of a self-authored text. Given the royalty structure on academic publications, one would be lucky to clear more than a hundred bucks a semester on the self-assigned textbook even if no such institutional constraints were imposed. And as you point out, no author makes money on monographs.

    But by all means, Stacey…don’t try to resolve any pressing issue like jobs creation. Author some more hard-hitting legislation to reduce the temperature of the state parking decks and such.

  4. I remember taking a class where the prof assigned his own book. He said that he made something like fifteen cents off of each copy. So he told us that if we bought a new copy to let him know, and he’d pay us the fifteen cents. He didn’t earn anything off of the used copies that most people bought.

    But then, I’m in Texas and our textbook issue right now is that our stupid schoolbook advisory board is taking all of the history out of the history books ‘cuz it might lead to thinkin’ and learnin’ and stuff and we don’t want THAT. Bah.

  5. Wait. Hold on. I think the larger stupidity of this escaped me on first read. Stacey does know, doesn’t he, that it’s already legal to refuse to buy a text for any class, for any reason? Students don’t ever have to buy the assigned text; they can get it out of the library, rent it from an on-line service, share it with a buddy, or fail to acquire it entirely — all perfectly legal, though differing shades of wise.

    The practice he seeks to make legal…is…already….legal. Yeah.

  6. That is totally ridiculous. Is it a conflict of interest or the sign of a better professor if using a book they’ve published. If its a self published book then its definitely kind of shady.

  7. If he wants to target something that’s earning windfall profits and hurting students in the process, the real monopoly on campus is typically held by campus bookstores.

    I was involved in a project which, in the days of the dial-up BBS, amounted to an online book fair, a clearinghouse for used texts. People could offer up their books for resale and get a fairer price than the student union was offering, and students could buy them at a price lower than the used rate at the legalized-monopoly bookstore. It was win-win for the students, but lose-lose for the vendors.

    As soon as the word got out in the wind, that project was nixed by the university administration faster than you could type “injunction.”

  8. What’s really entertaining is Campfield’s endless quests to keep his name in the news. Really? This is the most pressing issue addressing university students these days?

    Fer cryin’ out loud.

  9. Andy, I’ve worked as a bookkeeper at a college bookstore, and didn’t notice any windfall profits on books. The publishers don’t give college stores so big a discount over the list price that they are drowning in riches from the markups. Those college bookstores that are owned by Barnes & Noble or some other chain get a deeper discount from the publishers, but they tend to pass some of that along to the student. As has been noted above, the only ridiculously overpriced (and thus over-profit-making) books are the textbooks. And in my field, most assigned books aren’t textbooks.

    No, if college bookstores had to make do on just assigned books alone, I’m not sure they’d break even. That’s why they sell so many chachkas and paper products — that’s where the big markups are; especially the stuff with school logos (though the school gets a cut of that). Or why, if there’s a book-hungry local community, they sell books to the public in addition to textbooks (for instance, Teachers College in NYC, in the middle of Harlem, does a huge walk-in business on kids’ books). But the idea that these stores are swimming in money is mistaken.

  10. Aren’t books for courses included among the fees that can be deducted from ones federal taxes?

  11. I always felt like the real money was being made in the used market. They were giving me $20 for a book that I bought new 4 months before and selling it again for $60. And I was broke so I let them do it to me because I needed the $20.

  12. the idea that these stores are swimming in money is mistaken.

    See W’s comment above. The margins on used texts was ridiculous. It may not be the primary sale of a text where they make their money, but on successive iterations, the gains are substantial.

    And the lesson learned from my experience was that the U was giving sole province to the monopoly book vendor (not B&N, by the way) to serve as the sole (a) primary vendor of texts, and (b) local book resales brokerage. It may be different in the age of Amazon, but back in the early 90’s, the campus book monopoly was a cash cow. And the sweatshirts were just brown gravy.

  13. Well, our bookstore sold used books, but at a discount. I suppose it varies from store to store, or perhaps as overhead costs have increased school bookstores have raised their prices for used books. (It’s been 20 years since I worked there.) But our markup was not as huge as what W reports — nowhere near that, in fact. We would have sold a used text we’d bought for $20 for around $35 or $40, IIRC. And a student who had bought it for that amount could sell it again for $20 at the end of the semester, anyway. Now, I have no problem with students selling used books in any forum they like, but I just don’t see the evil campus bookstores as the center of the problem.

    The Professor is right that book costs can be deducted from taxes, and that’s handy for undergrads who can be counted as dependents on their parents’ taxes. For those who are not considered dependents, or for graduate students (and those in both categories are likely to be scraping by on a tiny income indeed), that tends not to be helpful because they are making such pitiful amounts of money that they pay barely any taxes anyway.

  14. What a moron. Did he even go to college? Does he even understand how it all works? That being published is part of the process to gain tenure and that getting published is often a sign of competency?

    I’ve kept two textbooks from my college career. One was written by my favorite professor who was later made dean of the college. It’s an excellent book and taught by the very best person to teach that coursework. I personally felt really good about being taught by the textbook’s author.

    And aside from all that, why does Stacey Campfield think that MORE LAWS are the answer for anything? He needs to go back and learn what “conservative” means. It doesn’t just mean uptight publicity whore.

    This guy is worse than any Ford family member can even contemplate.

  15. What’s really entertaining is Campfield’s endless quests to keep his name in the news.

    Yes we have a winnah!!!

    I can’t for the life of me understand why voters keep him in office. He’s an embarrassment to them.

  16. Pingback: Rep. Campfield on a Roll – aka Embracing Frivolity and Ignoring the Real Problems We Face in TN

  17. Here’s a concrete “for instance.” The standard reference upon which every lawyer and judge in Tennessee relies for interpreting the rules of evidence, is “Tennessee Law of Evidence,” by Neil Cohen, Sarah Sheppeard, and Don Paine. Put simply, there is no finer resource on this subject than this book.

    Cohen, Sheppeard, and Paine have all taught at the University of Tennessee Law School. Under Campfield’s proposal, would the UT Law School have to require its students to use the second-best textbook for evidence classes, instead of the best?

    Gimme a break.

  18. would the UT Law School have to require its students to use the second-best textbook for evidence classes, instead of the best?

    No, he would require that the instructors not receive the pittance that they get in royalties.

    Now, I have no problem with students selling used books in any forum they like, but I just don’t see the evil campus bookstores as the center of the problem.

    Campfield is asserting that professors (exercise their monopoly on the syllabus to) strong-arm their students into purchasing their texts in order to increase their royalties, a/k/a profit.

    The supposed harm here is to the unsuspecting students, children being forced to redistribute their wealth into their professors’ pocketbooks.

    However, it’s my assertion that when a university that gives a local franchise to a single bookseller (e.g. the student union), it is exercising its authority to strong-arm students into using said vendor.

    And if the point here is that the professors are engaged in a corruption ring (which he implies by using loaded words like “kickback”), maybe someone ought to cast a weather eye on the campus bookstore. Often, they are the only game in town; thus a bigger monopoly, thus a bigger potential economic harm.

    I mean, if he wants to twist the lid off this alleged jar of worms, let’s have a look at that. But the thing is that he’s not really serious about helping students out economically. Rather, Stacey X is engaged in a fatuous bit of demagoguery here. The implication is that there’s a vast liberal arts conspiracy to defraud students of their money, AND THEY MUST BE STOPPED. He’s pissing in the faces of whatever published UT professors happen to live in his district.

  19. Pingback: Rep. Campfield on a Roll – aka Embracing Frivolity and Ignoring the Real Problems We Face in TN « Roane County Democratic Party

  20. Really it makes sense, albeit, in a Campfield kind of way.

    The next thing you know, Campfield will be encouraging UT students not to pay for more expensive seating for UT Neyland Stadium football games, and just simply steal Section B seating!

    Scratch that…

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