Changes proposed to improve sustainability of printing system

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Author: Sarah Corsa

Student, staff and faculty print a combined average of six million pages of paper per year, Vice President of Information Technology James Uhrich told students gathered at the April 16 General Assembly.

Uhrich sees this number as unsustainable and hoped to use the General Assembly to continue the conversation about printing changes that began with the implementation of the swipe-to-print system. Proposed reforms include informing students about the quantity they are printing and instituting a printing quota.

Although Uhrich proposed these ideas himself, he is looking to the campus for a preferred solution.

“We’re not just going to make a decision in a vacuum,” Uhrich said. “We’re going to get input about it and find out what the impact is so that we know we’re making the smartest possible decision with the goal of trying to cut down on the amount of paper and resources we use as it relates to printing.”

At the General Assembly, students voiced a desire to stay informed of the amount they are printing throughout the semester. Students could possibly be informed through email or by making the number visible on the printer each time a student goes to print a document. According to Uhrich, each student on average prints 466 pages per semester although the highest number by one student was 10,500 pages last semester.

Uhrich proposed a further step of establishing a quota for each student per semester. If students go above the quota, they would be required to pay for each page printed thereafter.

The current swipe-to-print system makes it possible for the system administrator Steven Bornn-Gilman to track who prints how much, and therefore assess what the impact of such a quota would be on the student body.

“We can look at more current data and see: if the quota was X, how many [students] would go over it,” Bornn-Gilman said. According to the data, around 90 percent of students would probably never reach the quota if it was set at the proposed 1000 pages.

Occidental would not be the first school to use a quota. According to Uhrich, of 13 comparison institutions, 10 have some sort of quota on printing. The concept would not be entirely new to Occidental either; the college used a quota from 2002 to 2007.

“Even having five articles for one class or one day, I think we can stay under that kind of quota,” senior class senator Taylor Rowland said after seeing Uhrich’s presentation at the General Assembly. “It’s not like an unreasonable number in my opinion. As long as [sustainability] is really at the forefront, [students] will be okay with it.”

The Information Technology department has already made changes this year to reduce Occidental’s environmental footprint. At the forefront is the swipe-to-print system, which was instituted to eliminate documents which are never picked up after being sent to the printer. According to Uhrich’s data, 14 percent of jobs that are sent to the printer are never completed – jobs which would have previously been wasted. In addition, small changes like switching from Canon to Ricoh printers and setting the printers to print double-sided automatically reduce waste.

At this point, there is no set date for implementing new printing strategies, but Uhrich would like to pilot new strategies starting next year.

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