Olin enforces policy disallowing students from using pre-owned packets
Olin Business School students are now being required to purchase course packets for each class as part of a new practice designed to ensure students are properly equipped with the most recent material and to prevent copyright infringements.
Students have always been advised to purchase course packets, which typically include lecture slides, relevant readings and case material. This year, however, is the first time administration will attempt to enforce the one-student-per-packet policy.
The main goal of the shift, according to Senior Associate Dean of Faculty and Research and professor of finance Todd Milbourn, is to be sure that every student has the most up-to-date material needed in order for the professors to properly deliver course content.
In past years, students frequently photocopied and shared necessary materials without explicit permission from sources, and whether or not they were knowingly breaking copyright laws, administration decided it was best to ban the practice.
Although it may cost more upfront to buy individual packets instead of sharing, Milbourn noted the imbalance that is the result of only a portion of students doing so.
“Let’s say hypothetically a fraction of students are not [buying the packets]: the total cost of someone who’s writing cases still has to be covered, so people that are paying are basically having to cover those that are free-riding as well,” Milbourn said.
Milbourn also stressed that the income from such packets does not go to professors, nor to the business school itself. Instead, it helps support the authors of the original works, via an external company that distributes it.
“Professors definitely make nothing off the packets. The business school and the University make nothing on the packets,” Milbourn said. “In fact, we actually—as a school—we lose money in packet production.”
The intermediary company contacts the publishers of the content, finds out what the appropriate fee is and does so in a more efficient way than the business school could itself, according to Milbourn. But this service comes at a price, which is why the school heavily subsidizes the packets.
“Even if everybody bought the packets that were there, the school actually subsidizes a rather large fraction of the cost in getting these prepared to make sure that every student has them,” Milbourn said. “It’s definitely not a preferable exercise for us.”
In an email sent to all business school students, Associate Dean and Director of Undergraduate Programs Steve Malter detailed how exactly this policy will be enforced.
“Near the front of the packet is a sheet that requires your name and signature to verify receipt of the packet,” the email reads. “We ask that you sign and return that form to your instructor by the end of the fourth class meeting (just as the drop/add deadline passes).”
Sophomore business school student Zach Oppenheimer said he understood the necessity of course packets but argued there are ways to share without necessarily infringing on copyright laws.
“It’s plagiarism to copy a course packet and give it to someone else, but [the University] shouldn’t be forcing students to buy their own if they’re easily able to share with someone in class, and it’s not a disruption,” Oppenheimer said. “I don’t mind it personally, because I buy all my stuff anyway, but all of that information is usually available online.”