I'm currently taking a class that doesn't have a required textbook, which is why I took it. My professor is now saying that due to her scanning and printing out handouts for use we are each required to give her $15. I'm confused by this because isn't the money supposed to go through my university, as a fee for the class, rather than through her? I just want to know if she's allowed to do this
A professor should not be asking directly for money from the students. If the professor is scanning and printing things out for the students at her own expense, then something is wrong. Either the assignments and handouts should have been compiled into a course book, or the department should be helping to defray the professor's expenses.
Regardless of the request, I would be very uncomfortable giving money directly to the faculty member. It could be paid to the department, which would then reimburse the faculty member. But I would never hand cash or a check over to the faculty. This sets a very bad precedent.
I have never seen anything like this (I'm from France). I could imagine it might make sense, but as a student I would also find it a bit weird and would prefer that the money collection part were managed by the university rather than by the professor directly. As a professor, if I ever needed to do something like this, I would request explicit consent from each student before incurring expenses on their behalf, and I would provide a receipt when asking for reimbursement so that they know that they are reimbursing me the actual printing cost.
In any case, if this makes you uncomfortable or if the fee seems unreasonable to you, but you don't want to make a fuss, one option could be to ask the professor to send you a PDF and do the printing yourself, or to make copies yourself of a fellow student's copy of the course material.
Group orders of printed materials are frequently organized by professors in my experience, just to get better prices for the students. However, these are usually prefaced with "of course you can acquire these materials on your own, but they're going to be $X if I order them and I believe they are usually $X+z otherwise. Please put your name down on this page if you would like me to order one for you."
It may be that your prof is just bad at communicating. But what's odd in your case is that it seems to a) not be voluntary/your prof didn't give you an alternate avenue to acquire the materials and b) it's just copying worksheets, which should be part of regular expenses.
I can't believe the department wouldn't have a copier available for the prof to use for free! Edit: I stand corrected, there are apparently many places where professors are charged for copying, in which case it may be those costs your prof is trying to recoup.
As others mentioned numerous times already, the geolocation might dictate how appropriate this "requisition" is. To start with, copying textbooks is already some questionable ethics, and selling a copied (even partially) copyrighted material is somewhat shady. Besides, it makes little sense to force students to use the sources with low availability.
I remember a few times when the book was really hard to come by, and it was before the time when internet became widely available. Despite this, all the time there were numerous options, either the book was available for free in the library, or the teacher hands out a few copies and people were able to photocopy for the rest for free. In a class of 30+ people finding someone with an unlimited access to Xerox machine hasn't been a real issue.
These days at the university's library there is quite often a professional-grade book copier, which can also send scans to your university account for free (included in tuition fee). Besides, you can always make photos with your smartphone these days and decide whether you want print it out or read from a screen. To sum it up, technically getting textbook copies has never really been an issue.
Taking all of this into account and the fact that your professor hasn't informed you beforehand or left you with other options signifies poor organization of studying process to say the least.
The issue here is sometimes the professor is actually doing this as a cost saving technique. You can buy the required materials for $15 or buy this textbook for $200 of which we only cover 1 chapter.
Some schools are lucky enough to have an actual binder department, which can do this for them at much cheaper price and some schools don't.
Whether or not it is wrong depends on your schools/departments rules and regulation. Some places have a cost threshold, and below that it is not mentioned. Sometimes it is a case of either the instructor forgetting to put it on the syllabus or they missed a deadline after which it can't be changed for another semester. There could copyright issues here, but some instructor have actually gone through the effort to get written permission from the author or publisher to at least make it legal in terms of copyright.
I suggest you get a copy of your student handbook, probably online at their website or in the admissions or registration office. See what it says, and if it contradicts the policy email the instructor and let them know.
The downside here is if the instructor has been doing the students a favor, the instructor may be force to list a $200 textbook. Instead of just paying $15, now you need pay $200.
Check your department policies. It likely varies from school to school, but every department should have their policies available for students. It may take some digging, but getting the official information will be worth it if it makes you uncomfortable.
My wife had a similar situation her final year. Her professor created a booklet of worksheets and required each student for $15 to pay for the printing and binding of the book. She claimed that doing it this way would save the students money as she could get them at cost. We checked the University website and found the department policy page. It took us about 20-30 minutes to find the relevant information It was explicitly stated in the policies that faculty and staff were not allowed to take money directly from students and any required course materials had to be made available through the campus store or online.
We emailed the professor our concerns and a copy of the policy (and copied the department head). The professor apologized for violating policy and made the material available through other methods (the campus store also sold them for $15 btw).
If the material isn't required, or there is no specific policy, then ask the professor for digital copies to be made available. Most professor's I knew were very accommodating in making course materials available in multiple formats.
No, she is not allowed to do this, unless your syllabus states you can incur photocopy costs, and I've never seen that. At most institutions your syllabus is a contract, and wide departures are subject to formal grievance. Without that in place, what's to stop her from charging you for 300 pages per week at $0.10/page? She probably has no sinister motives, but you are not obligated to pay. (Ironically, having a required text would likely set you back far more, but that was a factor you were able to assess prior to entering the contract).
But, I suggest you simply tell her you can't pay. Bringing this up at a higher level might have consequences she might not deserve. Asking students for payment directly looks pretty bad.