Printing policies: in a jam

<em>Photo by: Alex Messenger</em>
Photo by: Alex Messenger

The clicking and whirring of printers is a sound that is synonymous with the library and basements of residence halls. Yet, the amount of paper coming out of these machines is a concern on campus and has given rise to a new policy implemented first in April of 2008 and  modified again on Feb. 5, 2009.

Students are to receive $6.25 worth of free color printing and, while black and white printing remains free of charge, students must continue to sign in before printing, in order for the college to keep track of the number of pages printed.

Such steps were put in place in an attempt to reduce the amount of excess paper the Gustavus community prints for academic reasons. Last year, the college purchased three million sheets of paper. During fall semester students used a little over one-and-a-half million sheets. Thus, on average each Gustavus student printed 580 pieces of paper last semester.

The sytem in place, called print accounting helps the technology department to find “a level of responsible printing,” said Bruce Aarsvold, the director of technology services. “Last April we implemented print accounting. … We wanted to know how much [was being printed, or if it was] … just a few people printing tons? We just didn’t know.”

Print accounting, however, is far different from print billing. The accounting system keeps track of numbers, while a billing system charges per page printed. Over the course of fall semester, Gustavus saved around 6,000 pieces of paper thanks to the new system by helping students be more thoughtful about what they are printing.

Whereas students may have once printed a document three times in order to correct minor mistakes such as a date, the accounting system makes it far easier to cancel printing orders before they come out on paper.

Libraries and residence halls still have some pages left in the printer at the end of the day due to people printing papers too many times, but not nearly as many as they used to have.

Gustavus has yet to consider seriously implementing a billing policy. This, however, creates some amount of “danger for the [technology department] because we haven’t really changed anything,” said Aarsvold.

When signing into a printer, students do not risk their checkbook; the entire goal, rather, is “to get students to realize that what they are using is a resource.” Whether or not billing is a possibility for the future is up in the air.

Aarsvold emphasized that “whether Gustavus starts charging for black-and-white is an institutional decision involving the President, the Greens, Student Senate, [etc].”

The amount of papers and articles printed for  classes has been on the rise over the last couple of years. Checking out library books has been replaced by finding online academic journals that can be printed out at one’s convenience. Professors have begun using Moodle to its fullest potential by putting articles, plays, power point notes or critiques online, which, while cost effective for the students, uses a lot of printed paper.

“A lot of my classes require that you print out a lot of the readings,” said Emily Thayer, a sophomore communication studies and political science major.

“Printing is a resource that needs to be used responsibly. There [are] times when we are all good stewards and times when we are wasteful, but I would like to err on the side of responsible,” said Aarsvold.