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SMC questions paper usage, printing habits

Lisa Gallagher | Monday, February 6, 2006

Saint Mary’s students enjoy many luxuries – large dorm rooms, on-campus apartments and free cable among them – but one luxury students may not realize they have is free printing on campus.

If paper usage and printing habits remain as they are now, however, that may change.

According to director of student computing Kathy Hausmann, Information Technology (IT) spent $1,870.72 last semester in order to stock the College’s various computer centers with 389,735 sheets of paper – approximately 260 pages per student per semester.

While some students do not use the free printers on campus at all, preferring to use personal printers in their rooms, others use printers daily – and IT is overspending on paper each semester to try to compensate.

Hausmann said the cost of paper per ream is $2.40, or $4.80 per 1,000 pages.

One disturbing trend witnessed by computer cluster consultants and residential computer consultants involves students removing paper from campus printers or taking entire reams from unlocked storage cabinets for use in their personal printers.

While campus printing rules state a print limit of one copy per document per student, on-site recycling containers across campus are stuffed with paper. Enviroshred, a private recycling company, empties the recycling bins daily, then shreds and recycles it, Hausmann said.

Junior Dana Christiano said she finds the printers in computer labs convenient when she is writing papers or printing off articles for classes on Blackboard.

“I am happy that the College has provided these printing services,” she said. “It is necessary for the learning process to be able to print off articles.”

Hausmann said a significant cause of paper waste is due to PowerPoint slides, which can run up to 60 slides per lecture. According to Hausmann, students commonly print one slide per page by default.

“Because students don’t want to put PowerPoint notes with one slide per page into their class binders, they’ll print out the slides again as more manageable handouts with three slides per page,” Hausmann said. “The unwanted printout of the slides goes into the recycling bin.”

Many students defend their on-campus paper usage.

Junior Katie Marr said she uses campus printers “usually once a week” when she needs to print out documents for class – including PowerPoint slides – but is careful in her printing habits.

“I use what I print, but when I’m done I’ll recycle it,” Marr said. “I hate it when [students] print things that they don’t need, or print multiple copies.”

Junior Rosemary Walsh said she only uses the printers on campus occasionally, and only in Trumper, the 24-hour student computer lounge located in the basement of the library.

“[When] I do print, it’s not like I waste paper and just print everything,” Walsh said. “I always use multiple slides per page.”

According to Hausmann, “lack of patience is another complication adding to paper waste.”

Students will print out an item, rush to the printer, not see their printout and go back to the computer to print out another copy, Hausmann said.

According to Hausmann, documents printed in Trumper can be sent to one of several different printers. When the area is busy, a document may have to wait in the print queue behind others that are first in line to be printed – and some students, not seeing immediate results, impatiently print the same thing several times.

“Printing multiple copies will not make a document [print] faster, but when multiple copies are printed to get a single copy, the extras end up in the recycling bin,” Hausmann said.

Freshman Nicole Pinter said she prints multiple copies for several reasons – if she notices an error after reading through her document, “if I have absolutely no change on me … or if my [personal] printer is out of ink.”

Hausmann said efforts to educate students as to how to conserve paper have made only a small dent in decreasing paper usage.

“[Students are encouraged] to print documents [class notes, drafts of papers and e-mails, especially] double-sided whenever possible,” Hausmann said.

One alternative to limiting the use and waste of paper on campus is to hold students responsible for what they print. IT is considering charging for printing on campus.

“We are testing a print accounting solution now, and hope to have a trial of the system in place after spring break,” Hausmann said. “The trial will not charge students for printing, but let them see how many pages they are printing.”

Hausmann said IT is also looking into implementing a quota system that would provide students with a number of free printed pages before they are charged for printing. The quota and price per page have not been decided.

Some students said they would not be pleased if the College decided to implement a charge for printing.

“Personally I would be [angry] if [the College] charged us because things are expensive enough here as it is,” Pinter said.

Christiano said it would be unfair for students to be charged to print documents when tuition costs so much already.

“I am against being charged for using the printer, because many classes require us to print off lengthy articles from Blackboard and the Internet,” she said.

Walsh said she thinks the problem lies mainly with individual students overusing printers and taking paper for personal use.

“There’s always going to be someone [who’s] going to try to cheat the system,” she said. “I don’t think that overall people abuse it.”