Newly Approved Textbook Policy at Louisiana in Review

( [email protected] ) Dec 10, 2003 10:20 AM EST

PINEVILLE, La. -- Louisiana College trustees now have passed a new policy to require college administrators to approve textbooks for classes at the Baptist school.

Previously there was no policy regarding the selection of textbooks and other classroom materials. It was strictly done by the choice faculty members. Under the new policy, approved by trustees after Dec. 3, all materials used at the school now must be approved by department chairs and the vice president of academic affairs.

The approved policy not only addresses the process for selecting textbooks and materials but also establishes guidelines for those materials. "All teaching materials and assignments must be relevant to the subject matter, appropriate in content and purpose, not inordinately expensive or difficult to obtain and recognized by others in the discipline as appropriate for the subject matter," the policy states.

The issue of textbook approval sparked in September when university President Rory Lee removed two books – “A Road Less Traveled” by Scott Peck and “A Lesson Before Dying” by Earnest Gaines – after a student complained about the use of profane words by Peck and love scene by GaineTs. from the college bookstore after complaints from a student.

Another student, Dale de Perrodil showed objection against this matter:

"Only one student had a problem with the book out of all the years they've used it. Road Less Traveled' is an excellent text."

Lee acknowledged he ordered the removal of the books without following the established procedure, which provides for students to be assigned alternative readings for materials they find objectionable.

Fred Malone, chair of the trustee academic affairs committee, said the old policy provided "literally no academic governance or oversight" in the selection of materials.

Malone thought this new policy goes in line with the 2000 “Baptist Faith and Message” because it fulfills the balance of academic freedom and academic responsibility stated in the doctrinal statement. This will expand the academic responsibility from "primary" responsibility of faculty members to the final approval of the academic and administrative ladder.

On the other side, the faculty members are in objection to the new policy. The school’s faculty approved a statement Dec. 5 against the new policy saying it will damage the college’s reputation, devalue degree programs, and hinder recruitment and fund-raising efforts.

The new policy is "manifestly impossible," said Thomas Howell, chair of the history department. "There is no conceivable way to review all the materials. There is no other way but to trust our faculty members to use good professional judgment on these kinds of things."

Opponents of the new policy are organizing a candlelight vigil near the Pineville campus today, Dec. 10.