Environmental Changes Costly for Student Body

Whether you need a hard copy of your 50-page thesis or a PDF for class, the new printing system has probably affected your spring semester in some way. Although many are complaining about the change, Washington College was pretty fortunate to have had free printing as long as it did. Most schools, from big universities to small colleges, have charged for library printing since the invention of the word document. From that perspective, 300 free pages is pretty generous.

While the change is jarring, the Elm understands the reasoning behind the decision. Ruth Shoge’s Dec. 4 campus-wide email announcing the decision said the following: “We believe the new printing system will eliminate long lines at the library, unavailability of printers and general dissatisfaction with the current outmoded service…. consistent with our George Goes Green efforts.”

We really can’t complain about the new, efficient printing system; most of last year’s problems regarding long lines, printer jams, and disgruntled students have evaporated with the five new printers that require students to get their material themselves.

We also can’t complain about the library’s effort to be environmentally friendly. Unlimited free printing resulted in an incredible amount of waste, and we appreciate the administration’s attempt to rectify that problem.
Our two points of contention are not with how the system works, but with its implementation.

Our first point concerns how the campus was alerted to the change in the printing prices. After extensive renovations, the library opened its doors on Nov. 9. Students became accustomed to the major changes — such as the effortless printing system — for well over a month before the announcement was made. It took students by surprise since the printing costs were not advertised as one of the numerous changes announced last semester.

By not informing students about the new system until the last week of classes, it was virtually impossible for students to adjust to this unexpected fee. As students, we are expected to come to class with the materials that we need — including essays, PDFs, and handouts.

The SGA estimated in its proposal to the administration, “The average chemistry thesis length that went for honors was 45 pages. With the use of simple arithmetic, we come to find that for chemistry majors, 225 pages were needed.” Even though the policy has given some wiggle room, students still have to consider their personal budgets to pay for whatever assignments that exceed the cap. With the eleventh-hour announcement, the library gave students very little time to adjust their own personal finances.

Which brings us to our second concern. We are more than supportive of the administration pushing students to be more environmentally aware. In many cases, students have the option of bringing electronic or hard-copies of required papers for class; the 300 page ultimatum is motivation enough for students to go paperless.

The problem arises when professors require students to print materials for class. Before there was a printing limit, such requirements were perfectly understandable. iPads and laptops make it pretty easy to goof around on Facebook while pretending to read a PDF, so insisting on hard-copies is a reasonable way of monitoring the classroom. It was sometimes a bother to rush to the library 10 minutes before class just to print out a 25-page article that we’d probably never read again — but at least it was free.

Now, with that 300-page limit looming over our heads, those printing requirements are more than just irksome; pretty soon, they’re going to be financially burdensome. Some professors ask for dozens of pages per class, and eventually, a dime a page is going to add up.

Faculty members are more than aware of the new printing limitations, and not just from the library’s announcement: they’re reminded by their students whenever they require printing for class. Despite students’ requests for paperless reading, however, many professors have refused to budge. So students are trapped: the administration is pushing, even forcing them, to be environmentally conscious, but the faculty is requiring them to do the exact opposite.

We recognize that some people simply don’t like reading off a screen. We also understand why some professors disapprove of iPads and laptops in class. But it’s unfair that the student body is being forced to go green at their own expense while faculty members can be as environmentally wasteful as they like.

So we’re asking you, the faculty, to reconsider this paper versus screen dilemma. If you can’t grade papers via email, print your students’ electronic copies at home. If you want to ensure your students are reading along in class, bring in hard copies instead of insisting they provide their own.
A campus cannot be environmentally friendly when only a portion of its population is making an effort. It should be everyone’s priority. The student body is completely in favor of George going green, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of our academics or budgets.

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