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March 23, 2006


Neeraj Desai

Insightful as always, this particular blog should be a must read for those that consistently fail to look at the bigger picture and usually reply to peoples' concerns with the response, "Oh there is nothing that we humans could do to the earth that a few tectonic plate movements would not fix."


The Committee on Computing and Educational Technologies (CCET) and the Committee on Sustainability renewed discussions this week about conservation, and considered limiting the number of pages that students can print at the Library per year. Inspired by concerns with paper waste on campus, theses committees hope that a quota will encourage students to be mindful of their resources.

Vice President of Computing and Information Services (CIS) Bret Ingerman said that under the current proposal—tentatively set at 1,000 sheets per student per school year—“80 percent of students won’t hit [the quota limit], and most [students] likely won’t even notice it’s there.” Students that exceed this limit, said Ingerman, will pay a small fee per page (estimated to be between five and seven cents). VPrint will charge the students’ VCard accounts.

Purchasing Intern for the College Committee on Sustainability (CCS) Ross Keogh ’07 agreed with Ingerman, saying that “it’s a pretty liberal quota.”

“In January, President [Catharine Bond] Hill came to us asking us to examine paper use on campus,” said Keogh in an interview. According to Ingerman, CCET’s discussion of a possible quota predates his tenure at the College, though he believes that it has been an issue since 2003.

With the new VPrint system, CIS finally has the tools in place to collect data on students’ printing. According to this analysis of VPrint use, from the beginning of this school year to mid-April, Vassar students have used between 2.1 and 2.2 million sheets of paper in the Library alone. The data also show that 50 percent of students used 500 sheets of paper or less, and that 80 percent used 1,000 sheets of paper or less.

Now that the College has concrete documentation on student printing, it can use that information to adjust its own policies. For example, the figures indicate that 42 percent of all VPrint printing is duplex, or [url=http://misc.vassar.edu]webcam strip[/url]. Getting that figure up to 75 or 80 percent, according to Keogh, would also greatly reduce paper waste on campus. CCS believes that duplex printing and encouraging students to use copiers instead of printers for flyers are other methods of reducing paper waste without sacrificing the quantity of printing on campus.

Even simple changes like this are difficult to implement. Professors have expressed concern that duplex printing limits the amount of space they have for comments. “I’d never thought of that before,” said Ingerman. “It’s a multi-faceted issue,” said Keogh, “and we need to address it as such.”

The Library’s Head of Reference and Interlibrary Loan Barbara Durniak said that she sees a need to reduce waste in the library. “You just have to go through the recycling bins to see how much waste there is, and that there is all kinds of non-academic use,” said Durniak. But while she supports the idea of a quota, she also wants to ensure that any quota in place would be flexible enough to support “academic library work,” such as research. “As more resources are available electronically only, it has to be a…reasonable quota.”

Vice President-elect for Student Life Morgan Warners ’08, though originally against quotas, said in an e-mailed statment that after speaking with Ingerman he has he has “changed positions.” Warners had been concerned that the data do not provide a comprehensive picture of those affected by the quota, such as their department affiliations or class year. After ensuring that any student with a valid academic reason could appeal the quota, Warners now supports the idea. “The cap is really only going to affect people who use a huge amount of paper–that is, more than they should,” he said.

Assured that the policy would not penalize students for choosing a major that may require more reading, Warners acknowledged, “There has to be some small disincentive if you exceed that quota, which most people won’t do and which, theoretically, no one will do once they realize they have to think before printing things out unnecessarily.”

Ingerman emphasized that “we absolutely will entertain requests for increases in case of demonstrated academic need.” Not all involved in the dialogue, however, see this policy as simply a preventative measure. In an e-mailed statement, Academic Executive and Library Committee member Rachel Zoghlin ’07 said, “Although the proposed printer quota is estimated to impact only 20 percent of students, I’m still concerned about this policy.” Zoghlin supports a move toward sustainability, but would like to see the current printer quota proposal “reconsidered” and emphasized the need for “further collaboration” before finalizing any such policy.

While CCS has discussed the idea of a quota during their meetings, they would like the campus to concentrate on other ways to improve efficiency. “A quota is just one piece of our comprehensive approach to campus paper use that will include an educational campaign, a faculty dialogue on student printing and improvements to campus infrastructure,” said Keogh in an e-mailed statement, “[The] Sustainability Committee has not started a dialogue about what is an acceptable quantity of printing given the College’s pedagogical goals. At this point we are confident that we can improve efficiency without harming academic need.”

CIS presented its proposal to the CCS on April 27, and hopes to implement a flexible policy by next fall. (c) misc.vassar.edu

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