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Printing Cap Proposal on its Way to Student Senate

Sara Wielenberg | Staff Writer | 3-9-2012

For a year now students have been logging into GoPrint to print their papers, notes, and research materials, but soon they may be looking at a cap for printing and paying for any pages exceeding that cap.

The University Affairs Committee (UAC) plans to have a proposal on the floor of the Student Senate in the next month or two for a cap on student printing. The cap that the UAC is currently looking at is a maximum of 500 pages per student.

After reaching that cap, students would have to pay per page of printing. The price is undetermined for now, but one suggested number is 5 cents per page. The Sustainability Office and the Information Technology Services (IT) department worked together on the stages of this initiative to reduce paper waste.

A couple years ago, the Library and Residential Life brought Erika Bailey-Johnson, Sustainability Office Coordinator, stacks of paper that had been printed by students but never picked up. The Sustainability Office began working from there.

According to Sustainability Office student worker Brandon Vantassel and Bailey-Johsnson’s research, most Minnesota university campuses have a printing cap. It was decided, after a meeting with Student Senate, that the first step to implementing a cap would be to monitor the amount of printing by students. The IT Department selected and purchased the GoPrint program, which was then installed on several, but not all, computers on the academic side of campus.

Jake Svare, a member of the UAC, will be one of those working to draw up the printing cap proposal for Student Senate. Svare was initially against the idea of tracking and charging students for printing, saying “We have enough fees already.” After being assigned to work on the project, his disposition changed. He says this is because “The program is a little different than I first thought.”

GoPrint was a way for IT Services to track the printing of individual students, and was intended to eventually be the way to charge students for printing.

The tracking results have recently been reported to Vantassel. Because IT has to avoid infringing on student privacy, the only information that Vantassel was given was a number. Last year, around 3 students went over 500 pages of printing, so the suggested cap is now 500 pages. This is only for the printing locations they were tracking, which did not include Bridgeman Hall or the Resident Halls.

“You can’t make things one size fits all,” said Nick Nelson, a member of Student Senate.

This is one of the many variables the Sustainability Office has encountered now that they are looking to move forward with this plan to reduce paper waste. For example, Bailey-Johnson offers Bridgeman Hall and the design students who have class there. BSU’s design students pay a slightly different tuition because of the printing and special papers and printers they use. Because they already pay a little more for these privileges, charging them after reaching their 500 page cap does not make sense.

Nelson is against the idea of a cap. “Different majors have different printing needs,” he said.

BSU’s Professional and Creative Writing major is another example. Those students do not have a different tuition, but their printing needs are often quite demanding. In some of the writing classes, professors require students to bring in copies of their work for every student in class so everyone can give feedback. These stories are sometimes required to be between 10 and 20 pages, and printing a 20 page story for a class of 20 students would amount to 400 pages- a number that hovers dangerously close to the proposed cap.

Other variables include how to track the Resident Hall printing from students’ personal computers, separating color printing from black and white, and separating Bridgeman Hall’s  printing. They also need to find a way to bill students who exceed the cap. Another question is whether students will be given a warning message when they come close to the cap.

The Sustainability Office has also discovered that GoPrint is not the program to move into the cap system with. Right now, they are looking for a vendor that would be able to tailor their printing-tracking system to suit BSU’s many variables.

“The ultimate goal,” says Bailey-Johnson, “is to reduce paper waste.”

“Even if we put in a policy that is well above the average printing of students, knowing that there’s a cap can help curb unnecessary printing,” Vantassel adds.

Even with these issues still on the table at the moment, students might see the cap in effect as early as next school year.