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rushistory

Buying TA Material

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Hi potentially silly question but I am a new TA and am just wondering how it works for texts our students are using. Do we go buy them ourselves or does the department provide them?

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There definitely should be a way for you to get them without paying for them. It will depend on the department, so ask around! For two more data points: at my Canadian MSc school, the prof provided me with an extra copy that they had. At my US PhD school, I only TA'ed grad courses that I already took in first year so I already had the book. Other options for obtaining the texts could be the course reserve in the library, or depending on your actual duties as the TA, you may not even need to own the actual book. 

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Firt check with your department, they should be able to supply a copy. If they can't (or won't) then check with the publisher and ask for a review or instructors copy, they should be willing to do that also, as it will lead to more sales for them.

 

 

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On 9/8/2016 at 10:02 AM, rushistory said:

Hi potentially silly question but I am a new TA and am just wondering how it works for texts our students are using. Do we go buy them ourselves or does the department provide them?

IME, the professor will have additional copies of the assigned books for her t.a.'s. In the event she doesn't and you're going to be working with her, you may want to be careful about how you ask for a copy.

Specifically, you want to make sure you're not drifting into a situation where the she hands you a copy while giving you a fleeting but critical glance that says, Well, I assumed that you already had a copy because this book is one that everyone who has majored in European history over the last forty years has read at least once.

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21 minutes ago, Sigaba said:

IME, the professor will have additional copies of the assigned books for her t.a.'s. In the event she doesn't and you're going to be working with her, you may want to be careful about how you ask for a copy.

Specifically, you want to make sure you're not drifting into a situation where the she hands you a copy while giving you a fleeting but critical glance that says, Well, I assumed that you already had a copy because this book is one that everyone who has majored in European history over the last forty years has read at least once.

To balance out this advice, I'd like to present a more idealistic view: many students cannot afford to buy their own copies of the essential literature and some professors recognize this. I know that whenever my advisor suggests that a student (especially an undergraduate student working on research with us) references a certain key book, my advisor always offers to lend their own copy, or in some cases, even buy a copy for the student to borrow. I have noticed that on many occasions now that my advisor is deliberate in making this offer immediately after suggesting the book, before the student feels the need to ask for help in obtaining a copy.

I think it's important for academics, especially those in positions of power, to remember that not everyone comes from a background where they are able to buy their own textbooks and have a healthy library. So, those who recognize this will try to avoid giving advice or making passing remarks that could come off as "If you don't have your own version of this book, you're not a real scientist/historian/sociologist etc.".

I want to also emphasize that I am not disagreeing with Sigaba here, and I'm also not trying to undermine your advice!! I know we do not exist in an ideal world and Sigaba is right that the "critical glance" is something we should be wary of and Sigaba is spot on that it's really important to frame your request appropriately. The only reason I put my response here is to provide an additional viewpoint since I would advocate that academia in general moves away from the ivory tower and become more open and understanding of the diverse backgrounds of all researchers. That is, I acknowledge the reality that academia is not like this, but I want to also nurture the hope that we can do something to make a difference in the future.

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On 9/8/2016 at 1:02 PM, rushistory said:

Hi potentially silly question but I am a new TA and am just wondering how it works for texts our students are using. Do we go buy them ourselves or does the department provide them?

Late to this topic, but for other future first-time TAs and grad instructors:

For this kind of situation, if the department doesn't automatically provide you with a textbook (which they usually only do if you're teaching an introductory course that a majority of TAs teach, like composition 101) you want to contact the publisher and get a "desk" or "examination" copy. They fully expect that professors and TAs will contact them for this purpose, and they're happy to comply. They often have pages on their websites that allow you to request an examination copy. (See this page, for instance: http://books.wwnorton.com/books/academicresources.aspx?id=4683; and since you're Canadian: https://www.oupcanada.com/request.php/

As you can see, the only thing you need to get a copy is a university email. If you explain you're a graduate student TAing a class, and that you need a copy, they'll mail it directly to your university address.

I mean, I'm a professor and I don't buy the textbooks I use to teach a class. To do so would be cost prohibitive, even for me. Most (if not all) publishing companies are willing to comply because it means that you're about to be requiring your students to buy a whole slew of textbooks from them. 

Also, you shouldn't be ashamed about asking this question of a professor. No one expects a new grad student TA to know about the "desk/examination copy" loophole. It's a perfectly reasonable question.  

Edited by Bumblebea

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On October 7, 2016 at 1:20 PM, TakeruK said:

I would advocate that academia in general moves away from the ivory tower and become more open and understanding of the diverse backgrounds of all researchers. That is, I acknowledge the reality that academia is not like this, but I want to also nurture the hope that we can do something to make a difference in the future.

Totally agree. This needs to happen. Just to provide another anecdotal example, however: when students who TA for my advisor ask him for a copy of the course books, he tells them that he expects students to buy their own. Seems unfair to me, but just be aware some professors do hold this view. 

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On 5/12/2017 at 1:42 PM, serenade said:

Totally agree. This needs to happen. Just to provide another anecdotal example, however: when students who TA for my advisor ask him for a copy of the course books, he tells them that he expects students to buy their own. Seems unfair to me, but just be aware some professors do hold this view. 

True. When this happens, it's worth checking with the publisher to see if they can send you a free desk copy. In many cases, they're able to do so with only a little bit of information from you. 

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