Thesis uproar makes it into the Daily Iowan

Thesis Policy Sparks Uproar

One interesting thing to note again is the apparent disconnect between the Graduate College and the librarians about scanning theses.

Short version --
GC: yes.
Librarians: no.
GC: the librarians must have misunderstood our edict.

Update: It's also in today's Press-Citizen. The dispute between the GC and the librarians is raised here as well.

1 comment:

HGF said...

Here's the latest from and via Kembrew:


I wish I had better, more definitive news. Given the unclear status of this mess, I think you all should contact University of Iowa President Sally Mason (see below for contact info). In yesterday's meeting, the Graduate College said that it is merely warning -- in the new form graduating students have to sign -- that the library intends to scan dissertations and theses. The College says that it only has the best interests of students in mind, and it basically claims that the UI Library is lying when the Library says that it does not plan to scan and upload theses in the future. The library denies this and says that the Graduate College is being alarmist. (And I might add that the university as a whole is being dysfunctional.)

Paul A. Soderdahl, Director, Library Information Technology, wrote in an email, "I can safely state that we are not presently handling MFA print theses any differently than we had in the past, which I hope provides some reassurance. I'm certainly not in a position to guarantee that that won¹t change over time." That last sentence doesn't "reassure" me. Nor was I put at ease by the phrasing of an email by Edward Shreeves, Associate University Librarian & Director, Collections and Scholarly Communication. In his email to a Workshop alum that was forwarded to me, the final sentence reads, "The bottom line is that your thesis is not going to be digitized in the foreseeable future."

What, exactly, is the "foreseeable future"?

Supposedly, there was a meeting yesterday afternoon between the Graduate College and the Library, but no one I've talked to has heard anything about what happened in that meeting, if anything.

I really don't think that institutional disfunction should be steering our university's copyright policies, and you should all write to UI President Sally Mason -- president@uiowa.edu -- to weigh in. Also, if you had previously sent me an email voicing your opinion, you should send it to President Mason as well.

I'm not going to be checking email very often in the next week, so I don't think I'll be able to be much more help right now. Also, if you want to know more details about recent events, here is a report from yesterday's meeting with the Graduate College.

To All English Faculty and Graduate Students:

This morning at 10 AM I had a meeting with Dean Dale Wurster concerning the new First Deposit Checklist form (http://
FirstDepositChecklist.pdf) that has generated considerable concern amongst the graduating NFW students, but which involves issues that will affect us all. For those of you who haven't been reading the news, the new form includes two paragraphs indicating that the University Library has adopted a new "open access" policy regarding electronic theses and dissertations, and that it eventually plans to scan all theses and dissertations and put them online. The GC is also offering a one to two-year "embargo" for those students who don't wish to have their theses made available online. This embargo form has to be signed by both the student and the faculty advisor, and must include a supporting letter from the advisor. There are numerous entirely legitimate concerns about this policy, all of which I raised with Wurster.

Let me start by saying that, as far as Wurster is concerned, he is responding to a unilateral move by the library and is solely trying to protect the rights of the graduate students. I saw no reason to doubt his sincerity in this regard.

Here is his timeline of events. Last September the GC started to get complaints from recent graduates that their electronically submitted dissertations were available in downloadable fully searchable format online through the library website. The GC notified the library, who apparently refused to take them down, and additionally indicated that they had eventual plans to put all theses and dissertations online, though they would specify no timeline for this. In response, the GC put together the new First Deposit Checklist form in order to inform students of this new policy and to provide them with the option to temporarily opt out of it. The library has denied changing its policy, but it is worth noting that they have also indicated that they need a way to make electronically submitted theses available to the public. It is also worth noting that the CIC has recently signed a cooperative agreement with Google to begin scanning their holdings.

At this point, the GC has decided to take the signature lines off the new First Deposit Checklist form, but they are leaving the paragraphs about open access on the form, both in order to inform students and to protect themselves from being blamed for the library's policies or actions. Wurster assured me that students may deface, revise, or cross-out this language in any way and, as long as they check everything else, their thesis will be accepted and deposited.
However, he strongly encouraged students to consider the embargo option, and assured me that, at least at this point, virtually all embargo requests would be honored and hard copies of those theses would be stored in the Graduate College for the entirety of the embargo period.

As I'm sure you're all aware, there are a number of very serious issues tangled up here in what appears to be a bureaucratic miscommunication between the GC and the library. These include not only the clash between a student's copyright and the university's mandate to make theses available to the public, but also the differences between creative and scholarly theses. I would by happy to answer any questions folks have about these issues, but I'm no expert and my sense is that the law is murky on these points, since the situation is unprecedented.

Wurster is meeting with Dean Keller and Nancy Baker, the head librarian, at 3:30 today. It is possible that some sort of announcement will issue from that meeting.



Loren Glass
Associate Professor of English
Director of Graduate Studies
University of Iowa