Students enrolled in STAB52: An Introduction to Probability at UTSC emerged confused when the required course text was not on the shelves at the UTSC Bookstore.
In a cautionary echo of the common advice not to buy textbooks before the first lesson, the actual course text, “Introduction to Probability,” had yet to arrive. According to Julia Chan, manager of the UTSC Bookstore, there was a backlog on the distributor’s end.
“A new title is selected for a course for a variety of reasons by the Faculty members and we always do our best to have the books arrive as quickly as possible. In this case, we ordered the new title as soon as we received the information but unfortunately it was on back-order from the distributor while they wait for additional inventory,” Chan explained.
Indeed, when Kuan Song, a student specializing in computer science, went to find the textbook after that first class, he did not find the course text. Instead, he found the course text of the previous session’s offering of STAB52, Probability and Statistics: The Science of Uncertainty.
“I went to the bookstore after class on Thursday to look for another class’ book, and piles of the old books were just sitting there without the tag for the appropriate course,” Song described. “There were some students who I’ve advised that the books on the shelf are not used anymore, but they ignored me and picked up the book anyway.”
Song also said that the UTSC Bookstore had listed the previous session’s course text as the required text for the Fall 2015 semester before the class started.
This conflicts with Chan’s statement that only the current course text has ever been listed for the fall 2015 semester.
“The textbook used for STAB52 in the summer of 2015 was the same book used back in September 2014. The Summer course-list on the U of T Bookstore’s website was posted online until the summer term was officially over and it may have been possible that a student could have mistaken it for the September 2015 course-list,” Chan suggested.
When asked about this apparent contradiction, professor Balint Virag, the course instructor for STAB52, revealed that he was not aware of the mix-up. Virag had only told the bookstore that he would use “Introduction to Probability” as his course text, and it came as a surprise to hear about the incident.
“I would be surprised because [the bookstore] asked me what textbook I should use and usually they wait for me to tell them. It’s possible that it remained [on the website] but I don’t know,” he said.
While the previous course texts have been removed from the shelves, Song still blames the bookstore for the confusion over the course text.
“It’s the bookstore’s responsibility to remove the textbook off the shelf when the instructor notifies them promptly. Removing the tag but not the textbook is basically just tricking the students into making the purchase because they’d think it’s the same book used for previous semesters until notified otherwise,” Song said.
“Introduction to Probability,” the correct text for the course, became available on September 17 at the UTSC Bookstore.