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2012 Fall Issue 3 (October 5, 2012)

Printers:“It Just Doesn’t Make Sense”

October 6, 2012
By Dylan Wells

Despite complaints from students and problems with the new software, the Carleton administration has pushed ahead with what is proving to be the most controversial policy change of the year: the implementation of printing quotas for Carleton students. 

The administration replaced the old printing program, GoPrint, with PaperCut, which charges printing fees to an account for every page printed by students.
The new policy allows students to print 800 pages per term, with unused pages rolling over to the following term.  Students are charged for any additional printing.  Students must swipe their Onecard before printing any documents, and this allows them to access an account which is credited $32 per term. 

Considering the old program used to track and manage printing, GoPrint, allowed students to print for free, there has been a substantial student pushback.  Carleton Student Association (CSA) President Michael McClellan ’13 questioned the fairness of the new policy and the financial burden it imposes. 

“It’s not fair to set up a system where people can’t afford to print out the readings assigned by their professors,” he said.  “It just doesn’t make sense.”
The CSA has a complicated history with the new policy, which was presented at one of their meetings last term by former Director of Information Technology Services (ITS) Joel Cooper and a student Sustainability Assistant. 

CSA began drafting a document that challenged the new policies and identified its shortcomings, but their response never really left the drawing board.

When CSA reconvened fall term, they found the policy already being implemented without their approval.  “It’s not immediately clear to me who made the final decision that this is going to happen,” McClellan said.
McClellan also questions the administration’s defense of the policies, which cites the thousands of pages of paper that a study found would be saved with PaperCut. 

“We had a few questions about the reasoning behind it all, and what I was getting at every turn was ‘paper, paper, paper, we’re saving paper.’  What I’ve found is that’s not the case,” he said.

While the new policy does indeed restrict paper use by forcing students to be mindful of their quota, it contains no features encouraging double-sided printing. Students are charged the same for printing 800 one-sided pages as they are for printing 400 double-sided pages.

“If the idea was to save paper, you’d think there’d be some multiplier in there, or some system to encourage people to save paper,” McClellan said. “I understand that toner can be environmentally damaging, but we haven’t heard that in any of the narratives we’ve heard this year.”

CSA Class of 2013 Representative Connor Lane ‘13 also questioned to what degree the administration had coordinated with the rest of the college’s staff when implementing the policy. “From my experience the staff and faculty are largely unaware of the new quota.  I’ve been the one to inform at least two professors.”

The difference in printing rates for different majors has also been a source of contention. “As an English and political science major I’m printing huge volumes on a regular basis.  While I try to be level in my position as a Class Representative, I do feel comfortable in saying that this new system is intrinsically unfair to certain majors, especially when professors are not aware of the changes,” Lane said.

The ITS department has been the hub of the turmoil over the new system, and as a CarlTech student worker, Karen McCleary ’14 is on the front lines. 

“There have been a lot of questions and complaints,” she said.  According to McCleary, the new policies were a surprise to most ITS workers.  “[A]s far as I know, the rest of the workers heard about it when they returned from summer vacation,” she stated.

“I heard about it because I was working here [this summer] and we had to remain abreast of the changes.”

Despite these issues, the administration is supportive of the new system; interim ITS Director Sam Patterson called it a “great idea.” He continued, “Getting people to be mindful of their impact, well that’s part of the education process.” 

This support however, is tempered by sympathy to the new system’s, and the administration appears to be working to resolve issues such as that of printing costs accrued by club presidents and other student leaders in the name of their respective organizations.

“ITS is working with Student Activities to come up with a solution that is maintainable as group memberships change, both throughout the term and year to year,” said Computing Support Services Manager Austin Robinson-Coolidge.

Robinson-Coolidge also sent the Sept. 24 email announcing a one-time printing quota increase of 100 pages to accommodate problems students may have had with the new set-up.  The email emphasized that the quota increase was simply to provide a buffer for mistakes made due to the difficulties inherent in navigating a new system.

Robinson-Coolidge is confident in the new policy and the data upon which it was based. He acknowledged that departmental printers were not included in the data due to a “low overall” output.

“It was clear that although some student printing did happen in departmental labs, the volume wasn’t a significant percentage of the overall printing. In addition, most student organizations and a significant number of student workers were doing their printing in public labs, which skews the numbers in the other direction,” he said.

Robinson-Coolidge’s confidence is shared by Manager of Campus Energy and Sustainability Martha Larson, who finds the quota to be “a helpful feature for raising awareness and curbing egregious printing and paper waste.”  Patterson, however, appears to be the biggest fan.

“I think it’s a brilliant idea…I really look forward to looking at the results of this a few years down the road. I think we’re going to see some pretty things,” he said. 

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