Purchasing Professor Authored Books: A Conflict of Interest?

by Andrea Traietti on January 30, 2020


by Savannah Plaisted ’21

Opinion Co-Editor


Photo courtesy of Free SVG.

Have you ever taken a class with a professor that required you to purchase a book they authored? Has this seemed problematic to you?

As students that pay thousands upon thousands of dollars in tuition, that in turn pay for the salaries of these professors, does it seem morally unsound to put more money directly into professors’ pockets?

Now, these professors are of course experts in their fields and should be able to share their expertise and research within the classroom, especially when their research cannot be found elsewhere. However, they can pull excerpts from their research and use articles or chapters sparingly from their own work, rather than having students purchase their material.

If a professor decides to base an entire semester long course off of one of their books, it can be concerning, given that students will be receiving a very narrow knowledge of the course material.

Dr. Jennifer Illuzi, who is teaching a seminar on the Holocaust, spoke of using her own research in class in saying, “Many of the books are out of print or unavailable through our bookstore and thus, since I had just written a summary of the research myself, I thought it would be a good way to convey the material to my students, while also having them see an article in draft form, flaws and all.”

Although Dr. Illuzi is using her own research, she is doing so because there is not enough prior research on the subject, and she does not require her students to purchase this material, rather she posts it on Sakai.

With that being said, professors should take into account the moral implications of having students purchase their published work when designing their syllabi each semester.