Trinity University is First Liberal Arts University to Endorse Open Access

Trinity University, a member of the Oberlin Group, becomes the first liberal arts university to endorse Open Access for sharing scholarly work.  Trinity joins institutions such as Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and the University of Kansas in strongly supporting the open access movement.  In doing so, Trinity's faculty will serve as a model to others in the liberal arts community in taking strong action on this critical issue. (October 24, 2009)

The Trinity University Press Release follows.  

CONTACT:  Susie P. Gonzalez (

Trinity becomes the first small, primarily undergraduate liberal arts institution to pass such a measure, known as Open Access. To date, the only U.S. universities to implement such policies are Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and the University of Kansas. Diane Graves, Trinity University Librarian, professor, and chair of the Faculty Senate, said she hoped the Trinity model would be emulated by others in higher education.

“Members of Trinity’s faculty have been studying imbalances in the scholarly communication system for several years now,” Professor Graves said. “I am proud that the faculty as a whole came together to support change toward a more sustainable and equitable model for access to their scholarly output.  My hope is that other institutions will see the broad range of universities that have taken this action – from Harvard, to the University of Kansas, to Trinity – and choose to join us.”

In the traditional scholarly model, faculty members submit scholarly articles for publication in peer-reviewed journals and, once the article is accepted, the journals – as publishers – acquire all rights to the body of work. Then, they or their campus libraries must purchase subscriptions, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year, to access the material to share with students and others.

Because of the expense associated with specialized, scholarly journal subscriptions, only the wealthiest institutions in the wealthiest states and nations have full access to them, Professor Graves said.  The Open Access movement democratizes and globalizes access to information, she added, increasing the visibility of an author’s work, and by extension, that person’s home institution.

The new Open Access policy also would enable Trinity professors to post the author’s version of the article in a freely-accessible digital repository. Such a repository already exists as part of the Liberal Arts Scholarly Repository, a collaboration among Trinity and other private liberal arts colleges, including Carleton College, Bucknell University, Grinnell College, University of Richmond, St. Lawrence University, and Whitman College.

Trinity professors in support of the Open Access measure included Erwin F. Cook, the T.F. Murchison Professor of Classical Studies, who said, “This is quite simply one of the most important educational initiatives in a generation.”

He said the goal of the Open Access movement to expand the data-base of knowledge freely available on the Web would be of enormous benefit to Trinity’s faculty and students, who increasingly rely on the Web for access to high quality academic research.

Steven Bachrach, the Semmes Professor of Chemistry and department chair, added, “In joining with the major institutions that have pioneered this Open Access Policy, the faculty at Trinity University are seeking new options for scholarly publishing. We are hopeful that the Open Access policy will inspire new experiments in publishing that will enable richer publications and global access.”

Jorge G. Gonzalez, professor of economics, said the faculty vote showed Trinity’s “willingness to be a leader in the reshaping of the industry instead of simply watching it happen.” The vote sends a message from Trinity to other primarily undergraduate institutions to act regarding the future of the publishing world, he said.

"We should be interested in what happens in this area since we play the roles of both producers and consumers of scholarly work,” Professor Gonzalez said. “The structural changes that we are experiencing here are the most dramatic changes since Gutenberg transformed the printing of books.”

Trinity’s Faculty Senate approved the proposal in late September. The vote by the full faculty on Friday, Oct. 23 was taken at an assembly during International Open Access Week.

Open Access Week builds on the momentum started by the student-led national day of action in 2007 and carried by the 120 campuses in 27 countries that celebrated Open Access Day in 2008. Organizers include SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition), the PLoS  (The Public Library of Science), Students for FreeCulture, OASIS (the Open Access Scholarly Information Sourcebook), Open Access Directory (OAD); and (Electronic Information for Libraries).