Saving paper is a good idea, but charging for printing might not be the best way

Zach Tarvin and Zach Tarvin

It was only a matter of time, but it looks like the University decided to use the guise of being environmentally friendly to charge students for printing.

I’d been hearing it would happen since August, but since most of the rumblings were that it wouldn’t happen until next fall I didn’t care – that’s the joy of graduating. But the fact remains that the proposed plan is full of holes in logistics and logic.

Any printing scheme on this campus would require a rethinking of the way our computer labs are run, particularly in residence halls. I frequently find the printer severely low on toner, with little time to get to another lab, let alone call the Residential Community Connection (RCC) to report it.

The University’s point about the cost of printing has value, but the move toward metered printing should be a last resort. The first thing that needs to happen is that students, faculty and administrators need to be on the same page about the alternative options to printing.

I’m a creative writing major. In a workshop class, I can easily print 150 pages in a semester. Yet, if I use tools like Word’s ‘Track Changes,’ I can still share comments and collaborate with my classmates without having to print. Clearly, this option isn’t going to work for every student, every instructor or every program, but it’s an effective alternative to charging students to print anything from a one-page response to a term paper.

What’s more, the University is more than ready to handle an electronic shift in the way we do academic work. Blackboard and MyFiles can both be configured to act either as a repository or a sharing hub for assignments. I would think if the University were going to offer these services, they’d push students toward them a little more before they outright charged for printing.

It may well be that faculty members aren’t using them because they don’t know how. If that’s the case, the University needs to provide better documentation and training for students and faculty.

Any number of ‘free pages’ would likely be too small for the typical student. The December 2 article on the printing scheme in The BG News shows the University’s point not to effectively punish the students who ‘only print around 25-30 pages.’ Who’s getting by on 25-30 pages a semester? Certainly not anyone I know. I would think a close approximation would be 300 pages or more. This semester I’ve probably done twice that, but I was printing my senior thesis.

The key thing here is that the University and students are not approaching this issue efficiently. Before we go anywhere near charging to print, we need to exhaust all other options. Almost every time I go to use a campus computer lab, there’s a stack of PowerPoint slides or a discarded second copy of a GSW paper lying on the printer tray.

Sometimes, on weekends, I’ll throw some of my own paper in the empty printer to do a small assignment, only to find that there’s twelve copies of someone’s term paper spooled to the printer, because hitting print eleven more times always fixes things. Simply by better educating students and faculty, we can reduce the need and waste in our printing costs.

If we’re really hemorrhaging that much money in paper and ink, maybe the RCC needs to become a sort of SWAT team, sweeping into computer labs and ejecting anyone contributing to waste, be it frivolous printing, or playing Farmville when there are other people who actually need the computer.

It’s a little martinetish, but it is more beneficial to the entire campus community.

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