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Student: $65 required textbook written by faculty member at CSUB full of errors

Former California State University, Bakersfield student Skye Dent holds a copy of "An Interactive Approach to Second Language Learning and Teaching: Foundations and Applications," which she contends is filled with typos and photos for which the publisher didn't have rights. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

A retired journalist with three college degrees under her belt, Skye Dent said she knows good and bad writing when she sees it.

So when she saw the latter in a required textbook at California State University, Bakersfield, she spoke up.

Then, she said she was punished for asking questions.

Dent, 62, enrolled at CSUB for the winter and spring term of 2017. She'd just moved to Bakersfield for the lower cost of living and to be closer to family. She planned to teach high school and needed a credential.

But right away, Dent was puzzled by one of the books her professor listed on the syllabus as required material for the class. It sold in the bookstore for $65.

"I had a hard time understanding what was taking place in what I was reading in this one," Dent said, holding up a textbook above a mess of other paperwork.

The book is called "An Interactive Approach to Second Language Learning and Teaching: Foundations and Applications," written by Dr. Mahmoud Suleiman, who was the chair of the university's Advanced Educational Studies department at the time.

"I noticed there were a lot of typos and grammar errors," she said.


The mistakes are not hard to spot. In just the first 20 pages of the book, there are two references to "United Sates" and improper uses of the words "fraught" and "insinuation." We read the word "interpedently" and took note of several other sentences that appear to have missing or extra words. There are improper tense shifts and numerical figures that appear to be flip-flopped.

University spokesman Michael Lukens didn't deny the book has problems.

"We acknowledge there are some editing issues involved in it," he said.


Attempts were made to interview Suleiman, but he released a written statement instead.

He writes that he "followed all campus policies" about the use of his book. Regarding the mistakes in the text, he wrote, "Unfortunately, many of my proposed changes were not incorporated in the final version."

Because Suleiman stood to gain financially from a book that he required his students to purchase, Suleiman and Lukens said the book was reviewed by a committee made up of several faculty members in the credentialing program.

The faculty determined Suleiman to be a credible expert and the text would be cheaper than the previous book, Lukens said. The committee did identify the grammar and spelling issues but approved its use with the understanding that the errors would be scrubbed during the publishing process.

But the Eyewitness News investigation uncovered that the error-filled textbook was sold for three years before it was pulled from the shelves, just before the current semester.

When were the mistakes first realized?

"I don't know the answer to that," Lukens said. "Students were able to use the text and were able to learn from it and were able to learn the concepts and material they were expected to learn as part of the course."

Suleiman said that he earned $3,259 in book royalties over the three years the book was used as required reading. He made $8 for each of the 392 copies that were sold.

COPYRIGHT PROBLEM

Another concern Dent voiced to Eyewitness News was that photos in the textbook did not have credit lines as her other textbooks did.

"I looked at the photos and the illustrations," she said. "There were approximately 140 of them, and none of them had any credits, and some of them looked like photos that were taken from newspapers, which I kind of felt was a copyright violation."

In an email following our initial interview, Lukens wrote that "images and links were included by the publisher, not by (Suleiman) and he was told that they had secured permission."

Eyewitness News used reverse Google image searches to catalog the source of the photos in the book. We had questions about a few, but one in particular stood out. An image of a mother and son, a photo on page 14 of the book traced back to Lynne Sladky, an Associated Press photographer based in Miami.

Eyewitness News contacted the AP to learn whether the publisher, National Social Science Press, had received a license to use the photo. We exchanged emails and phone conversations with a spokesperson in New York City who confirmed that, unless the publisher filed for permission under a different name, they did not have permission to use the photo.

Calls to the NSSP were not returned, but we were able to reach the executive director, Jerry Baydo, by email.

Baydo is a part-time history professor at Grossmont College in El Cajon, Calif. He was mentioned on the acknowledgments page in Suleiman's textbook.

His first response to the Eyewitness News request for information about NSSP was the following:

"I have been contacted by key persons at Cal State Bakersfield who told me if anyone had any questions at all to have them contact the legal counsel of the chancellors office."


We asked Lukens to whom he might be referring.

"I can tell you that nobody at CSUB who would be authorized to give that guidance, gave that guidance," Lukens said. "So, if that happened -- I'm not saying it did or didn't -- but whatever the circumstances, if that message got out there, it was from somebody who wasn't authorized to give that guidance."

Eyewitness News followed up with Baydo, and he doubled down, saying that his "board of directors" made the decision they did based on "the advice from the chancellors office there (CSUB) to not make any statements at this time."

Lukens insisted again that he wasn't aware of anyone at CSUB giving Baydo or NSSP any advice.

Baydo never agreed to an interview over the phone, but he did respond to several questions via email, insisting that the photo in question was "from one of the royalty free websites."

The AP spokesperson insisted this couldn't be so.

Dent said she spoke with a variety of school officials at various levels about the book, and no one seemed to care.

Out of frustration, she attended a meeting of the California State University trustees in Long Beach over the summer. She attempted to cram her whole story into the 90 seconds allotted to speakers during public comment.

It was not long after this hurried presentation in Long Beach that she received some disappointing news about the future of her education at CSUB. It arrived in the mail.

"The admissions committee has voted to deny you admission to the single subject credential program," Dent said, reading a letter from the university's letter.

Dent said she believes she was retaliated against for speaking out about the book. Lukens said the university is looking into her claims and is unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.

This semester, the book is no longer a required textbook, but the university said the errors in the book were not the primary reason. A year ago, the school transitioned from a quarter system to a semester calendar. According to the university, the new academic calendar necessitated changes to classes and course material.

Suleiman's text is no longer on the required reading list for any education courses, but it remains available to students now as a free resource.

Baydo contacted Eyewitness News shortly before this report and said that the digital version of the book in use now has been updated.

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