Printing quota trial slated for fall semester

The Campus Environmental Advisory Committee (CEAC) is looking to implement a pilot project to monitor printer use come next fall. This trial will explore the possibility of charging students for printing in excess of a stipulated quota of impressions, or sides of pages, but will not yet administer charges.

“We affirm that paper and printing are an important part of the educational process, but we do want to discourage waste,” said CEAC member Caroline Goodbody ’08.

Last Wednesday, College Council voted 11 to 8 in favor of the one-semester pilot program in a straw poll, but decided to defer full endorsement of a quota policy until CEAC has compiled data from the trial. CC members also raised a number of questions, including how the funds from excess printing penalties will be used, an issue which is under discussion.

According to the policy proposal, which is still being finalized by CEAC, students used almost 400,000 sheets of paper to print over 700,000 impressions last fall. Based on counts at Sawyer Library, an estimated 80,000 sheets of paper and 140,000 impressions went to waste.

Under this new model, a program called PaperCut will keep a tally of impressions for individual users, who will receive periodic e-mail notifications of their usage. PaperCut will work in tandem with the Common Unix Printing System (CUPS), a free, open-source printing system that will replace the current Novell system.

In contrast to Novell, the proprietary queue-based printing system that the College has used for many years, CUPS is universal across all operating systems and allows users to link printers to their computers seamlessly rather than installing a different driver for each printer. CUPS, which has been in place in Sawyer, Schow and Jesup Hall since January, also allows administrators to set global defaults like double-sided printing.

“We’re excited about this project,” said Seth Rogers, associate director of desktop systems at the Office for Information Technology. “We’ve been looking for a way to manage paper waste for many years, and there’s certainly also been a strong push from the various green initiatives on campus.” He added that this policy will also reduce wear and tear on equipment.

Details of the policy are still being ironed out. Among them is the quota, which will probably be in the region of 500 impressions per semester. According to OIT, the average use of paper in Jesup, excluding the library labs, was 215 pages per semester.

“There are a few other issues that we need to iron out, such as, accounting for printing that students do on behalf of their jobs on campus, or their involvement in student groups,” said Stephanie Boyd, acting director of the Zilkha Center.

Goodbody noted that CEAC is in discussion with the art history department about alternatives to the current system, where some students in art history courses print out hundreds of slides depicting artworks. Possibilities include distributing DVDs or books of images.

The committee is also considering measures to minimize the impact of the penalty charge on financial aid students.

A survey conducted by CEAC last fall revealed that students are more open to a quota-based system, as implemented at Middlebury College and Ohio Wesleyan University, than alternative printing regulations like the charge-per-page type system at Amherst and Trinity Colleges.

“Other schools have found that even if most students don’t reach the quota, they still reduce their paper waste when there is a quota system,” Goodbody said. “It’s about getting people to be mindful of what they’re printing.”

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