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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Student printing charges

A tree needs to be cut down almost every day to accommodate student printing at Grinnell, based on a 2003 survey from the University of Colorado applied to Grinnell student body paper usage. Grinnell is trying to cut down student printing instead.
To reduce excessive printing, Information Technology Services (ITS) is considering charging students for each printed page, starting next semester. Many students are against this plan and think that their concerns have been ignored.
Students will pay roughly five cents per single sided page and about as much for each double-sided page, according to William Francis, Director of ITS. Students will be given a quota on the scale of 300-500 free pages each year.
The plan, in its current form, involved installing a system called “Papercut.” When students print from a public computer, they will need to authorize the print job by swiping their P-card at a release station near the printer. Students will be charged on a new account that will be installed on P-cards expressly for this purpose. The startup cost of “Papercut” for the rights and the card readers will be over $50,000 according to Francis.
The final decision will likely be made this summer, according to Francis and other sources. As a test, a color laser printer that is not currently public may be opened to student use with the new system over Spring Break.
Dylan Sather ’10, SGA Technical Advisor, agrees with the goals of ITS. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t try to save as much paper as we can,” Sather said.
However, Sather believes charging students is the wrong way to reduce paper waste. Student printing makes up only five percent of the college’s total printing budget, according to Sather
Moreover, Sather and others, such as SGA Vice President of Student Affairs Ben Offenberg ’11, feel that administrators are not doing enough to prioritize student concerns.
“Primarily it’s been students going to ITS and asking them questions,” Offenberg said. “They have not actively come to us to solicit our input, we’ve had to go to them.”
“Anybody that wants to meet about it or send information—that’s fine, I’ll find the time to do that,” Francis said. He has met with various students, including SGA leaders, according to Francis and members of SGA.
However, the only contact with students that he initiated was one talk at a Joint Board meeting, according to Francis.
Like Offenberg, Sather wants ITS to more actively seek out student opinions.
“They should have done a lot more, and they can still do a lot more to seek out student feedback,” Sather said. “We shouldn’t have to make the effort to go out to them.”
According to a student initiative passed last semester, most students are against printing charges. 85 percent of the student body affirmed, “the student campus community opposes the acceptability of charging for printing as a cost saving mechanism.”
Self-interest isn’t the only reason students oppose the change. A primary concern is that financial aid, as it is currently structured, will not pay for the academic printing needs of students who can’t afford the extra fee.
“It would disadvantage lower socioeconomic status students,” Offenberg said. “Which is something that… Grinnell goes out of our way—by offering things like free printing—to not do.”
According to Francis, he has not yet worked with the office of financial aid to solve this problem.
The new system will face other problems as well. Students may avoid the cost by printing to semi-public printers, including the SGA printer and department printers, which would not be a part of the new system, according to Offenberg.
Also, according to Francis, there is currently no plan to accommodate the needs of student groups. Many student groups rely on posters printed in bulk to notify the campus of their activities.
Sather says he has proposed alternative to printing costs that may help reduce wasteful printing without the same negative effects.
“It could be a great system if we just implement a few changes, both institutionally and personally,” said Sather. His suggestions include installing print release stations with no charge to students.
Francis cited a survey of comparable colleges which says installing such a system with no charge would reduce printing costs, but not by as much.
To encourage a productive discussion, Offenberg, Sather and others recently formed the ITS Advisory Committee. Students and administrators, including Francis, will meet regularly to discuss ITS policies.
After this week’s meeting, Offenberg is optimistic that the committee with help “open a communication channel between ITS and the student body that really hasn’t existed before.”
Any student with suggestions on how to decrease wasteful printing can get involved by talking to Francis or Offenberg.

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