The start of the semester marked the introduction of a new printing system, sparking criticism and complaint. Though students in the past were permitted unlimited printing, we are now allotted $60—750 double-sided black-and-white pages—each semester and must pay out-of-pocket for any additional costs. The transition has frustrated students who are now directly confronted with the cost of printing at every turn.
The new system, however, is an important environmental move for the College because it will greatly reduce paper waste. The change was inspired by initiatives at peer schools, some of which saw reductions in printing of 20 to 40 percent after implementing similar policies. Last year, the College collectively printed 1,604,545 pages. If the new system reduces this amount by even 20 percent, it would translate to a literal ton of paper saved per year. As the College strives towards carbon neutrality by 2020, we should accept the cost of this worthwhile cause.
Furthermore, students are not necessarily paying more for printing; the cost is only more apparent. Even if, in previous years, printing appeared to be free, it was not: Students were paying for it indirectly. The only difference is that now the charge appears on the Pharos screen rather than buried in a tuition bill.
With the increased visibility of cost that the new system provides, we would imagine student awareness will increase and that printing use, costs and thus the shared financial burden of printing, will go down.
But the average student's printing costs should decrease even more thanks to the individual-incentive-based model provided by the new system. Before, the limitless cost of printing was shared equally between everybody. Now, it is shared only up to the first $60. After that, individuals printing at a high volume will no longer be subsidized by the rest of the student body.
Some disciplines, which require more printed readings, have been hit harder than others. For instance government, and, ironically, environmental studies majors have to print more readings than a typical visual arts or biology major. Nonetheless, the fact that certain students have to print more and now, pay more, is not as unfair as it might seem. If these readings were sold at the bookstore, students would not question why they had to pay for them.
For these reasons, environmental and economic, we support the new printing policy, contingent on a number of conditions.
First, the printers need to work. While paying for each page is fair, paying for pages that do not print is infuriating. Information Technology (IT) currently offers a pager service for campus-wide IT emergencies and a parallel service should be organized for printer-specific problems.
Every printer should display a phone number that students can call if they are experiencing technical difficulties. The most heavily used printers, such as those on the first floor of Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, should be monitored by a knowledgeable and easily accessible employee who is trained to assist with printing problems. Perhaps the money saved under the new system could be allocated toward funding this increased technical support, or invested in upgrading our printing technology, gradually decreasing the need for so much live assistance.
Finally, we hope for continuous transparency regarding the effectiveness of the new system. Frequent updates on how much paper and money we are saving would serve to motivate students and remind them why this change is a good one.
The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which comprises Claire Collery, Nick Daniels, Piper Grosswendt, Zoë Lescaze and Seth Walder.