On-campus printing procedures require clarification

A couple weeks into freshman year, every Washington University student slowly but surely learns to avoid two hotspots at their peak times: the Danforth University Center food lines and all on-campus printing stations. On any given weekday, during the 10-minute slot between classes, dozens of students rush to Olin Library to quickly print out readings or presentations before their next classes start. The classic which-printer-is-going-to-be-free-first pacing, the agitated sighs when a printer runs out of paper and the sweaty run-walk back outside as students resign themselves to reading off their screens become routine. We appreciate the resources the University provides for students, but there are multiple opportunities for improvement.

On the Student Technology Services’ printing web page, the list of printing stations on campus includes vague locations such as “Arts & Sciences,” “Business School,” “Medical Campus” and “School of Engineering.” As any student knows, College of Arts & Sciences classes take place in scattered locations s, sometimes even within buildings technically listed as belonging to business, engineering or art schools. These descriptions are unhelpful to students seeking easily accessible printing stations and fail to provide clear directions to printers around campus. Another problem: Students who attend classes on the East End of campus have limited options, as there are very few stations east of Olin Library.

As of right now, many printers are located in libraries. This is smart idea on first glance because of the large traffic flow and proximity to computers. But this is harmful to the quiet atmosphere that students desire when going to a library. (Try printing a paper in the East Asian Studies Library or the Gaylord Music Library, and you’ll realize that you’re disrupting the silence and receive some dirty looks.)

Providing an easily accessible, specific and regularly updated list of working printers across campus—not just in residential areas and in the business/law schools—would reduce the stress levels of rushed students and provide some relief for the most frequently used printing stations, which often have a line of students waiting to use them during the day and which require frequent restocking of ink and paper. Additionally, (and this may be helped once the location of currently unknown printers is publicized) distributing printing stations more evenly around campus for the convenience of students in all academic disciplines would help reduce the heavy reliance on certain printing hotspots, like Olin Library and the DUC.

To further compound the printing confusion, the printing money allocated for each student is determined by factors such as housing situation and academic school.

All students on the Danforth Campus automatically get $5 per year to spend on printing, and there is an additional $40 credit for students living in Residential Life housing. After the aforementioned $45 (or $5) sum, there is a large variation in how much additional printing money is given out to students by academic school. The College of Arts & Sciences and the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts give out no additional printing funds, while students in the School of Engineering and the Olin School of Business get $40 and $65 extra for the year, respectively.

There are differences in printing needs between academic disciplines, but this large range is uncalled for. The wide gap in allocated printing money between schools leaves many students either running out of printing money by the spring semester or ending the school year with far more funds left over than necessary.

Given the diverse needs of students on the Danforth Campus, we propose a new strategy for allocating printing money to students. Rather than giving students printing money based on their academic school, we suggest allocating money for printing by course. For example, a writing intensive, peer-review-based course in Arts & Sciences would require more printed materials of students than a large introductory lecture course.

By asking professors to predict the amount of required printing for their course for the semester, the University will encourage more efficient use of printing money and even has the potential to affect the amount of paper waste produced as more and more assignments have the possibility to be turned in online.

Through this plan, the University will be able to predict the amount of printing students need more accurately, close the wide range of printing money distributed to students within the Wash. U. community and help out the Student Technology Services workers when they are inevitably asked to replace the paper in ResLife computing labs for the umpteenth time.