New printing limit stifles student needs

Sep 10th, 2009 | By | Category: Editorials, Opinions

Five-hundred printed pages per year.

Or, if you do the math, three printed pages per week, per class.

Student Government Association seems to think that is all students deserve to print at the open computer labs on campus, a place students pay a fee to use.printer

Assuming the average student enrolls in 15 hours each semester (30 hours and 10 classes total for the year) for the roughly 30-week school year, that rounds out to only three printed pages per class, per week in order to avoid exceeding the 500-page limit.

Those three pages for a week of class must cover printed notes, papers, assignments, and whatever else a professor asks students to print.

Were students really beating down the doors begging Student Government Association to limit our printing privileges to 500 pages a year?

You’d think so, given the little signs SGA put out now sitting next to every lab computer terminal on campus that say we did.

For supposedly going green, we wonder how much paper and ink they used printing out those signs?

Couldn’t they have just wrote it on the desktop backgrounds?

In any case, SGA does not seem to have to do much to enforce this quota.

Computer technicians have to worry about implementing and maintaining the system, while lab employees must decide whether to grant or deny extra printing requests.

SGA members just get to sit back, vote to impose a printing quota on the rest of us, and make it appear they are doing something for the environment and the school’s budget.

SGA computers are not located in an open lab, so they can still print as much as they want, whenever they want.

Unfortunately, the students (SGA’s constituents) are the people who will be harmed by this capricious decision.

Some students will avoid the computer labs once they reach the imposed limit, instead printing on their own home ink jets (costing the student money), while other students will just ask to have their printing limit exceeded.

If SGA really wants to get serious about saving paper and money, why allow students to extend the limit so easily? Either set a limit or don’t. Doing neither wastes everyone’s time.

We seriously doubt lab employees really are going to sift through a students print jobs to make sure they are academic-related. Honestly, that should not be their job anyway.

Okay, so one student printed over 25,000 pages last year. That is a ridiculous waste of money, ink, and paper. However, the whole campus should not be punished over the actions of one student.

Instead of a printing limit, we have a better solution to the problem. As before, student printer usage should be monitored by software. However, students should not be limited in printing privileges.

At the end of the year, any student who prints an excessive amount of copies is subject to a print review by members of an SGA board. If, after examining a student’s print jobs, SGA finds that an overabundance of non-academic prints were made, then that student would be required to pay five-cents per-page for anything over 500 pages.

Voila. Under this plan, students would limit their print jobs to academic purposes to avoid the fine, the campus saves paper, ink, and money, students following the rules can print their academic work as needed, and the burden of policing the mandate transfers back to members of SGA, where it belongs.

Going green doesn’t have to mean going cheap.

-Zach Becker

For the Editorial Board

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  1. This new system confused me at first too. However, if you read up on what went into the decision, it starts to make sense. You can find some of the information in the official SGA document here:

    “80% of campus users account for less than 37% of printing equalling less than 130 pages per user per semester.” So, your average student is only going to use half of the quota.

    500 pages doesn’t seem like much, but be honest with yourself. 1. How much does the average professor give you to print? 2. Do you really print EVERYTHING your professor gives you? 3. SHOULD you be printing everything your professor gives you? (i.e. printing every PPT slide on a single page when you could see them in class or read them on the computer.)

    Honestly, I see a LOT of abuse of the printing system on campus. In any lab at any given time you’ll find at least one person printing off a stack of single-page PPT slides longer than my arm. That’s coming out of your pocket and mine.

    Three weeks into the semester I’ve printed a whopping 2 pages. Maybe I’m a sub-average user, but seriously, you should be able to keep printing to less than 500 pages a year easily with a little common sense. There are exceptions to every rule, but the SGA has provided for that.

    The paper signs were a little stupid, I’ll admit. As far as enforcing goes, when does a governing body (e.g. Congress, Parliament, etc.) enforce their own rules? Legislative, Judiciary, Executive (enforcement) branches each serve their own purpose. SGA printing comes out of SGA budget, not the Student Computer Usage Fee fund. They essentially pay for their own printing.

    The “asking for more” bit is not supposed to be full review of all printing activities. 1. Maybe it will guilt the abusing student by reminding them that they are wasting paper, and having to ask an authority figure for more. 2. Serves as a more general check to see, “This student has already had their limit extended twice, something’s wrong.”

    Printing abuse is more widespread than one might initially think. Just go sit in an open lab near the printers for a few minutes and see for yourself.

    I think the plan suggested in this post would work, but might not have the same psychological impact as the current plan from the SGA. I’m sure the SGA examined several options and weighed them fairly before settling on a solution. If you have doubts about this, go interview a member that was involved in the decision and find out, instead of jumping to conclusions. If you don’t like the decisions the SGA makes, talk to a representative about it instead of just complaining.

  2. David,

    I appreciate your thoughtful response, but disagree on some points. I also did not jump to any conclusions with this editorial. I read the SGA documents you referenced and got the facts before voicing the official opinion of The Underground.

    I agree that this quota probably won’t affect a majority of students on campus, but what about those 20% who obviously need to print well more than 500-pages? Some majors require more printing than others and I would hope we are not encouraging students to ignore printing out assigned documents in the name of saving paper. The more classes a person enrolls in, the more printouts they will need. When we did the math, a full-load 15-hour student can only print 3 pages for a class in a week to avoid the limit. That just seems unfair to a student that is following the printing rules.

    Some people also have poor eyesight and need to print off documents in order to comfortably read them. Again, they should not be denied extra printing when they are following the rules and just need to be able to see it on paper.

    Like I stated in the original editorial, we should not be punishing all students because some people abuse the system. If you are just printing academic materials for classes, you should be able to print as much as you need. College costs an outrageous amount already, so at least the school should provide printing for academic needs. You should not have to feel like you are doing something wrong if you need more printouts.

    Yes, SGA printing comes out of the SGA budget. But, where does that budget come from? Student fees. Just like the Student Computer Usage Fee.

    Should SGA have to police this mandate? Absolutely. We have a campus judicial board. According to the SGA constitution, “The CJB shall be established in order to provide students with a representative voice in the regulation of their actions and to encourage their participation in an understanding of the administration of fairness.” I would say this board would be well-suited to determine whether students should be put up for review and then provide a hearing to determine whether a fine should be issued for excessive printing.

    By creating a printing quota, but simultaneously allowing students to easily bypass it, we really aren’t curbing abuse in the system. Without some type of punishment or enforcement of the rules, chronic paper wasters are still going to print what they want, they will just ask permission to exceed the limit. Honest, hard working students will probably be the only ones who follow the rule, and we feel we needed to stand up for these students who are being treated unfairly.

    Under our plan, students would police their own non-academic printing for fear of a fine, but also still feel free to make the printouts they need for class. Our plan would give this quota some teeth, without hurting honest students.

    You said that we are just complaining, but I do not think that is a fair assessment. We laid out our arguments for why we thought the current system is unfair, proposed a viable alternative, and published it in a campus newspaper, where not just one, but any and all SGA representatives can read it. I think editorials are a vital part of a campus newspaper, and are a great tool as we perform our media role as a watchdog over the government.

  3. I think I see your point a little better now. When I first read the original article it seemed to be putting forth a different point. Now that I can see some of the research that went into it, as you put forth in your response, your original point is a lot more clear.

    I’m still not sure I agree with you %100 percent on this, but I can tell that my original comment was too hasty and rash now that you explained the story a bit more fully. Please accept my apologies in that regards.

    One of the things I was unaware of was the existence of a CJB. That helps clear up the subject of how a printing review would take place.

    One thing I think is clearer now as well, is the printing difference between the majors. Being a CIS major I might print 100 pages a year at best in the labs. Whereas, other majors, like journalism, would clearly have more of a demand in that area. I can’t think of a way to do this effectively, but under the review system you mentioned it might be advantageous to have some sort of a factor involved to account for the student’s major.

    As to encouraging students to ignore printing out assigned documents, this goes back to the major issue again. In the CIS/COBA department, the professors often encourage students to NOT print off documents if possible. They suggest options such as reading it online, printing 6 slides to a page, etc. Yet, those students will often disregard this for no other reason than being lazy. (people with good eyesight, easy access to digital formats, etc.)

    I think that perhaps what might be more effective would be education about paper use on campus. That is, assuming students would heed such suggestions. No system is perfect, obviously, but perhaps a combination of all three of these? Something like, a required online printing education course (something that can be completed in a few hours), a much higher cap (1000-2000?) that can’t be as easily bypassed, and a CJB review for those who fall in the range of say 500-1000. Maybe a memo to the professors, asking them to help by reducing the number of assigned documents that require printing and encouraging more responsible paper use in the classroom. While more complex, maybe such a system would be more effective without punishing those honest students.