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Beloit College to add printing quota next year

This article was originally published on April 27, 2015.

Beloit College is transitioning towards a centralized Print Management System and recently decided on a new quota for the number of pages students can print for free.

Megan Fitch, Chief Information Officer of Information Services and Resources (ISR) has been in charge of implementing the new system, which involves a transition to companies Equitrac and RK Dixon. The new centralized system will use more cost-efficient equipment and hopefully limit paper waste.

“We don’t want to make money off of this. We don’t want to interfere with the teaching and the learning. We want everyone — including faculty and staff — to be thoughtful about printing,” Fitch said.

Over winter break and in recent weeks, the college removed two printers and replaced the remaining Library printers with updated equipment, including Multi-Functioning Devices, or MFDs, which can copy, print and scan directly to email. The college is removing its inkjet printers, as they are “expensive and inefficient,” according to Fitch, in favor of OPAC laser printers. While the overall number of printers are being reduced, the number of student printers will stay the same.

Librarian Chris Nelson, who assists students with equipment, commented, “The new printers have been working better than the older equipment.” The changes also involve a learning curve for everyone. “We’re trying to better understand the new multifunction copier-scanners; they can be puzzling.”

The new system is funded by a proposal submitted by Fitch and Sustainability Coordinator Lindsay Chapman to the Revolving Loan Fund, which was accepted in January. The proposal totaled just under $30,000, and should repay itself back in two and a half years through a reduction in paper and ink purchases.

“From a cost management perspective, last year we were supporting more than 300 print devices (of over 110 different models) and purchasing and storing ink and toner for all these devices. Now we are minimizing the number of print devices and the mix of models, to help with inventory management,” said Ann Gackstatter, Director of Information Technology.

Last academic year, the printers in the Library printed 1.275 million pieces of paper, down from 1.4 million the previous year. That’s about 830 pages per student.

The exact details of the quota are not completely cemented, though they are “pretty set,” said Fitch. Starting next year, students will be allotted 400 pages of black and white printing included in the tuition payment. For the last part of the semester — the exact time frame has not been set yet — an extra 100 pages will be allotted to factor in for increased use at the end of semesters. After 500 pages, students will be charged 2 cents per black and white page, and 6 cents for color page. Each side of the paper counts as a page, so printing double-sided would mean two pages.

The number of pages would roll over from fall to spring semester, but not from one academic year to the next. Students can add more pages by purchasing them through the Accounting Office, though a browser-based, self-service option is being researched.

Fitch said she and others came to those numbers after comparing other schools, many of which allotted between 200 and 750 pages for free. Case studies of similar institutions showed a reduction in printing of 10-40 percent after using a similar system.

Chapman was surprised Beloit College didn’t already have a centralized system in place. She and a student have been conducting recycling audits during the spring semester, and will be releasing data in the fall. The college’s three-year Sustainability Plan aims to increase the recycling rate by 2.5 percent each year, starting next year.

“I do believe that having a print release function along with educating students about the importance of using print preview functions will greatly reduce the amount of wasted paper,” said Chapman. She added, “I like to think of this print management solution as a challenge for the campus to rise above and beyond the recycling goal–to attain and surpass it even when taking on additional sustainable projects.”

Using FollowYou, students can send their print job to a printer in another building. The printing process will also involve more steps because of a system called Secure Release. Jobs will be sent to a server, and individuals must confirm the job by logging in with a pin; otherwise, jobs are deleted after four hours. The system will keep track of how many pages each person has printed already.

“This will prevent lost or forgotten print jobs that sit on a printer until someone dumps them in the wastebasket,” said Gackstacker.

“Just one day last week, a library staff person picked up 2 reams of unclaimed printed pages (1,000 pages) from the library printers,” noted Chapman.

After four years, the contract with vendor RX Dixon will be renegotiated, and the college will be provided with new equipment. Fitch said the printing equipment might not last that span of time.

There are still a few specifics that need to be worked out. There are concerns for students who use printers for their workstudy jobs, as Fitch would not want to compromise their personal allotment. She also wants to make sure the system can meet printing needs of clubs and organizations.

Nadir Carlson, Beloit Student Congress (BSC) president, has been in discussion with Fitch and Gackstatter about how these changes will affect clubs. “It is a change and will require all of us to plan better,” he says.

BSC is planning to fund clubs and organizations for 100 pages of black and white paper per semester, and is also looking into clubs using the print shop.

“This appears to be the best way to not require individuals to use their own allocations on club matters,” he adds.

The quota has potential implications for students’ learning styles. Many students use their laptops instead of bringing print copies of readings to class. This does not work for everyone, though. “It’s easier for me to read and take notes on paper copies,” said Sarah Hodkinson’18. And not all professors allow laptops in the classroom. Some students argue that the quota should go hand in hand with a more lenient policy about laptops in the classroom, though that comes with the possibility of other complications, including increased distractions.

However, it’s also true that the college expects students to pay for books and other supplies, and printing may not be so different. One option could be having professors send their class readings to the Turtle Creek Bookstore to be printed there.

Nelson notes this will involve a shift in the printing culture. “Students do a lot of last minute printing at the library before they head to classes. The new system will involve more steps, and one-at-a-time access to each printer,” she said. Adding a quota also means more pressure. “Sometimes we use the trial and error method now to get usable copies. With tracked usage, reliable results will be even more important.”

There have been other efforts to reduce paper waste across campus. Last summer, Brandon Diop’17 and Libby Storrick’16 conducted a survey led by Lynn Volbrecht about sustainable marketing last summer. In one year, approximately 23,422 posters are printed; this adds up to a minimum of $8,197.70 on postering each year, factoring in 8.5 x 11 inch paper and color ink. The survey emphasized the importance of a shift towards using social media and word of mouth to spread information. A television was installed in the Mail Center this semester to advertise events that would otherwise be shared using posters. Still, truly decreasing paper usage calls for a significant culture shift.

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