Printing fee necessary, administration says

By on September 16, 2009

The Chronicle asked about 40 students how they felt about the new printing charges in the library.

Everyone had the same basic feeling: they didn’t like it.

Quinnipiac’s student body received an e-mail on Aug. 12, saying that effective Monday, Aug. 17, the previously allotted 550-page allowance of free prints would be discontinued and all prints and copies made in the Arnold Bernhard Library and Law Library on campus would be charged 5 cents per page.

Five minutes after Dr. Richard Ferguson, senior vice president for administration, sent that e-mail, he received his first disgruntled response. Twenty more responses followed that day. In total, Ferguson has received about 35 e-mails about the new printing policy.

“They questioned our institutional commitment to environmental concerns, which is a fair question to raise,” he said. “But we really are working.”

The history of the printing policy goes back to the opening of the Arnold Bernhard Library in July 2000. According to Ferguson, the library’s printing program was never designed to print the bulk of students’ papers. The original intention was for students to be able to take away electronic material. In 2003, the laptop requirement for all undergrads was implemented and the library changed to facilitate student use of technology.

The printing policy was an accidental policy, never deliberate, Ferguson said. The volume of printing and copying at the beginning was relatively modest. But it got to the point where the library budget was bearing the cost of one million copies a semester, he said. Ferguson, with a background in economics, referenced a basic rule of economics that free goods get over-consumed.

Research was done for three semesters to see who was printing what, and three years ago a constraint of 500 prints plus 50 to accommodate jams and errors was put into operation. As a result, the library was spending more than $100,000 a year on printing.

Fred Tarca, associate vice president for information systems, agreed that the new printing policy was not a sudden change.
“Printing is an issue every college campus I am familiar with has been struggling with,” he said. “It was a development of a pattern of behavior we watched over time coupled with budget concerns coupled with environmental concerns. It was a natural decision. Just the printing that took place in the library last year equaled 500 feet of paper. It’s stunning when you think in those terms. This is the responsible approach to take.”

“I was angry because they didn’t take gradual steps,” said junior Shanice Owens. “Instead they took it away completely so everyone had to bring their own printers and cope.”

Rachel Ben-Eli, a junior, said, “It’s not really saving the paper, we’re printing from our own printers now. They’re charging us for printing because they want more money, not because they care about being green.”
President John Lahey spoke with the Chronicle about the new policy on Thursday, Sept. 10.

“Let’s face it, in the electronic age that we’re living in, clearly hard copy things are becoming less and less of a reality, so we’re going to watch it this year,” he said. “Obviously given the difficult economy for everyone, I can well imagine students not being happy about it.”

Professors are also feeling the effects of the policy change. They were encouraged to work online and to try to have students submit papers online, but nothing was mandated.

Professor Kristen Wolfe, co-faculty advisor to Roots and Shoots, thinks this is a noble goal and is rethinking her class policies. On her syllabus for the semester, she asks students to hand in their term paper both as a hard copy as well as submitted to Blackboard. She is now rethinking the hard copy requirement since the students will have to pay.

“Anytime we think of our consequences it’s a good thing, and sometimes when we have to pay we think about the consequences of our actions,” Wolfe said. “It reinforces that everything is connected.”

Professor Kristen Richardson, also a co-faculty advisor to Roots and Shoots, is in agreement with the new policy as well.

“I’m OK with that,” she said. “I don’t see how it can affect my courses. As a student I can understand how students are nervous about not being able to print so much, because I’m a visual learner myself. Having easy access to a handout can make all the differences in studying and remembering. It’s definitely a step in the right direction and it should have come sooner. But it’s happening now and it’s great.

“What I do know is we just can’t keep using paper the way we have been.”

“Unfortunately, printing is an emotional issue,” Ferguson said. “Be careful what you give because if you have to take it back it’s much more difficult than to give. We don’t lightly go back on these things because you know the response that we’ll generate.”

According to Ferguson, even Admissions now scans everything rather than printing applications. Now when people submit electronic applications, it stays that way.

“We are trying to become a campus that emphasizes electronic delivery,” he said.

“It’s time to put some discipline in our own operations,” Tarca said. “We would not want to be negatively affecting students in comparison to peer institutions. We feel like we’re in the middle of the bell curve here. We feel good about the policy quite frankly. We didn’t get an uprising of 6,000 students. I think people realize it’s responsible for us to address printing.”

Last year in the budget review, there were three significant library costs: staff, material and printing. Staff positions were reorganized to minimize the impact. Journals and materials were a priority to keep reliable and consistent. When attention was first brought to printing as an issue, Student Government President Louis Venturelli pressed the administration to lower the proposed fee from 6 or 7 cents per page to 5 cents per page.

“There are a lot of colleges and universities that try to keep their tuition down and then try to sneak all these fees and extra charges for just about everything else,” Lahey said. “We have tried to do almost none of that. We’d rather have– this is what it costs to go to Quinnipiac. But once you’re here and you’ve paid that, you know we’re not nickel and diming you throughout the academic year. In this case I am comfortable that we did it in order to let faculty know there is both a cost associated with giving these kinds of assignments and it’s not honestly environmentally in tune with where we’d like to be.”

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About Meghan Parmentier

Senior Managing Editor
Email: editor@quchronicle.com
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Year: 2012
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