Though it has only been in place for two weeks, the new printing policy has already proven to be the cause of much debate on campus. The eco-friendly printing system forces students to weigh their commitment to the environment against the convenience of unlimited printing rights.
The new system came as the result of the Bowdoin Printing Group's (BPG) long-term initiative to improve the way printing is handled at the College.
For many years, the BPG, composed of Finance, Information Technology (IT) and Library staff, has been working towards reducing paper waste and simplifying student public printing.
"We weren't in a hurry," said BPG co-chair and Deputy Chief Information Officer Rebecca Sandlin. "We spent years working on it and we didn't move ahead until we had software that would be easy to use."
With the addition of the Omega printing stations this year, IT found a user-friendly interface. The new software builds on the Pharos system that was introduced last year, maintaining the original prompt for username and job title, and adding a second prompt that asks students to accept the cost of their print request.
Under the new printing protocol, students are allotted $60 in funds per semester. For each single-sided page, five cents is deducted, while eight cents is charged for double-sided pages; the same charges apply to black-and-white copying and microforms. The $60 allotment is equivalent to 750 double-sided black-and-white pages, and according to data from the fall 2009 semester, that amount will fully cover the printing needs of close to 82 percent of students.
The new printing system is based off of similar plans at peer schools, some of which saw a 20 to 40 percent reduction in printing following the adoption of limited printing allocations. In the 2009-2010 academic year, the College used 1,604,545 pages; at this rate a 20 percent reduction would save one ton of paper per year.
"The new printing plan supports Bowdoin's commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2020 by reducing the College's paper waste," wrote Del Wilson, Director of Finance and Campus Services and co-chair of BPG, in an e-mail to the Orient. "Based on the reductions seen at other colleges that have implemented similar plans...I am confident that the new plan will reduce paper waste at Bowdoin."
Yet like all serious green initiatives, the new plan demands something of the people it will affect.
"It's a commitment we've made to the College to be green, and we all need to make sacrifices," said Bowdoin Student Government President John Connolly '10.
Students have expressed displeasure with both the convenience and cost of the new printing system.
"It never works," said Cristopher Hall '11. "When you send documents to the machine they don't show up—it's really frustrating."
Many students have had similar difficulties with the system, mostly due to the new "second click" prompt that must be processed before a print job goes to the Omega station. The second prompt notifies students of the cost of their request, and is designed to increase conscientiousness regarding the use of expendable resources.
"The College is helping us realize our consumption, and I don't think that's a bad thing," said Isa Abney '11, who contributed to discussions on the new plan last year. If the second prompt is not addressed, the print job will not be processed—thus the source of many printing mishaps over the past few weeks.
"IT is a service provider. We want to provide the best way of doing things at the least expense...we want to provide as much training as possible," said Sandlin. In efforts to help students navigate the printing stations, IT has posted instructional signs all over the libraries with the query, "Students, are your print jobs missing?"
Additionally, library staff has been collaborating with IT to field student complaints and to ease the transition to the new system.
"We have always had a strong relationship with IT," said Public Services Librarian Leanne Pander. "We hope that students will understand and get used to it...we hope that [they] will be patient."
Sandlin acknowledged the problem of the second prompt, but emphasized that it was the product of much discussion with students, faculty and staff regarding how to best raise awareness of paper waste.
"Students asked for this second message so we really want to do everything to try to keep it as part of the system," said Sandlin.
Many feel that the system unfairly penalizes students whose classes demand a large volume of readings.
"For some classes the workload is really heavy; I know [Environmental Studies] and [Government] majors have a lot," said Ouda Baxter '11. Another student, Isaac Ardis '11, estimated that he would exceed the allocation by about $70 this semester.
"The primary benefit is that we all have a new reason to practice brevity in our writing...and reading," he said.
Sandlin, on the other hand, stressed that the new program has no monetary incentive: "The point isn't to make money—this is just to prevent waste," she said.
Though some students, including Ardis, will exceed the $60 allotment, the findings from last year suggest that many students who were printing excessively were doing so on behalf of student organizations.
"People who were printing over the limit were doing it for outside organizations, and the SAFC [Student Activities Funding Committee] has a lot of funding for that," said Connolly. "It helps track club spending, and that way we can monitor our own printing as well."
The new printing system undoubtedly makes it much easier to regulate the volume of paper consumed on campus, but it remains to be seen whether students will come to embrace it as a beneficial eco-friendly initiative.
"We're only two weeks into the semester, so clearly there are going to be kinks," said Connolly. BPG will be conducting a follow-up assessment of the printing plan after the fall semester in which students, faculty and staff will participate.