By Allison Rodgers
This fall, Bryn Mawr is very much a place of change. There is continuing construction, a new curriculum, and an administrative initiative for more “fun.” One change in particular has managed to rouse the passions of the student body, providing ample material for lively dinner discussions – the new printing quota.
Working through the GoPrint system introduced last year, the quota allows each student sixty dollars of credit per semester, which is equivalent to twelve hundred pages. After twelve hundred pages, students will be billed five cents per page for black and white printing and ten cents for color printing.
Elliott Shore, history professor and Chief Information Officer for the college, and Janet Scannell, the Director of Computing Services, sat down with me Thursday morning to be interviewed on the issue. They, along with Jerry Berensen, Chief Administrative Officer and Head of the Sustainability Committee, had previously attended the Sept. 18th SGA meeting during which they answered questions from students. Shore and Scannell were eager to communicate that the quota was not about money collection so much as conservation and that the needs of students were placed at the forefront of their efforts.
“Students don’t view printing as luxury but as academic necessity. . . and we tried to appreciate that . . . we tried to make it a generous number” said Scannell. They added that other ways of lowering printing costs had been tried in years past, what Shore referred to as “gentle means of persuasion.” These efforts included adding an additional step to printing and working with the Bryn Mawr Greens Club to set up boxes in front of the library where abandoned printing jobs were kept. These efforts were meant to increase awareness and ultimately lower the amount of printing but were seen as not effective enough.
For the administration, the problem is also financial. In the wake of the recession, Bryn Mawr held community-wide budget meetings. One end result of these meetings was three million dollars in cuts across the college. Coupled with this, Jerry Berensen said at the SGA meeting that “the amount of paper [Bryn Mawr uses] has skyrocketed. It’s gone up thirty or forty percent a year and is still going up.”
During the SGA meeting, the administrators put a spotlight on the environmental implications of Bryn Mawr’s printing. “We print 2.8 million pages . . . which is equivalent to 888 trees . . .” said Scannell. But in our interview, Shore and Scannell seemed more focused on finances. “None of this is free” said Shore, “we want to spend money on more permanent things.”
Students have had a mixed response to the printing quota. Many students agree with the environmentally conscious motive behind the page limit. Some students within that group agree that excess printing ought to be curbed but dislike the quota system. Several students react to the quota as an unjust additional cost to an increasingly expensive education.
Students highlighted their concerns and indicated flaws of the quota system at the Student Government Association meeting on Sept. 18th. At the meeting, students asked pointedly about printing concerns. A theme running through several questions was the increasingly large amount of course materials online instead of in print.
Blair Smith ’12 noted that she has over 200 pages of reading per week. She and other students highlighted their belief in the necessity of having print copies of readings to use. Many students criticized the broad nature of the software and asked if printing quotas could be adjusted for coursework or majors. Another criticism was that double sided printing costs the same as single-siding printing.
Scannel addressed this issue by explaining that the new and improved software will be coming. At one point, Yung Jong Cho ’12, SGA President, asked that the “tone of the questions be more respectful.” Shore and Scannell certainly felt the heat at the SGA meeting and were sympathetic but unwavering in the interview. “This is complex” said Shore. “I don’t know if either side got across the complexity of the issue.”
As far as the foreseeable future, the printing quota is here to stay but will experience some changes. Depending on behavior changes, the limit could be relaxed or tightened or it could remain at twelve hundred pages. Students will be happy to know that Scanell said raising the quota specifically to accommodate seniors is a “high priority.”
New software for the system will be used starting in January. This new software will possibly be linked with Haverford College, as they are likely to adopt a quota within the coming year. Haverford students have not received much information on the quota that will be imposed. Student reaction thus far appears similar to the sentiments expressed at Bryn Mawr.