_Due to a reporting error this article incorrectly stated that Nancy Schoonmaker, a recent Ph.D. graduate of UNC’s history department, organized a conference to discuss her objections to the graduate school’s dissertation policy. A conference was planned by one of the presses considering publishing Schoonmaker’s work to discuss the ramifications of mandatory open access. The article has been changed to reflect this correction. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error. _
After years of self-funded research and travel, Nancy Gray Schoonmaker, a recent Ph.D. graduate of the University’s history department, was finished.
In spring 2010, she had finally completed a more than 700-page dissertation about spiritualists in the 19th-century South.
But when Schoonmaker filed her intent to graduate, she learned a harsh lesson: the University owned her dissertation — and the right to publish and reproduce it for free through UNC Libraries.
“Currently, in order to graduate you must check a box stating that you allow your dissertation to be published online,” said Laura Blue, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation, in an email.
By checking this box, masters and doctoral degree candidates grant UNC a license to publish and reproduce their thesis or dissertation in the University’s library database. The general public can then search for these published documents at no cost.
But graduate students are working to reform this graduation requirement, which they view as a hurdle in the process of publishing their dissertations elsewhere.
The problem is felt most by history students who are working toward publishing books but is less relevant to science students, who benefit from having their work put online, students said.
“A lot of us are afraid that it will be harder for us to publish things if it’s already out there in electronic version for anyone to find,” said Anna Krome-Lukens, a history student and GPSF secretary.