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The Dartmouth
April 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

The Greenprint Quandary

Recently, the College decided that a system needs to be put in place in which students will be charged for public printing. This is a big step forward, and here I wish to share some of my thoughts on this issue.

It is of vital importance that the first plan that the College implements to charge students for using Greenprint facilities be well-thought out, because of both bureaucratic and human inertia. Firstly, once a student's expectations are set (especially for the incoming Class of 2007) it is hard to modify the system without sparking immense debate, especially if the charges are adjusted in an upwards direction. Thus, any plan now needs to account for any future rises in print demand as far as it is possible. Secondly, the bureaucratic and administrative machine tends to both formulate and execute decisions without consultation with the affected parties; the swimming team and the budget cuts decisions are apt illustrations. Kudos to Computing Services for consulting the Student Assembly; in fact, the Student Assembly should set up a forum to encourage responses from the student body since this is an issue that effects every student on campus seeking a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth.

The system in place should penalize wastage, not printing. It should thus charge for less per page for using the duplex printers -- for example, if the charges were the same for printing two pages on separate papers and two pages on one paper, then the fundamental purpose of the system is defeated. The number of pages remaining should also ideally be displayed on both an online website (the Dartmouthcard.com site seems appropriate for this cause) as well as on the Greenprint monitor before the student executes his print job so that students can plan ahead.

There should also be a conscious attempt to avoid imposing any blanket limit on students. Students vary in both degrees of academic inquiry (i.e. the desire to do an optional reading assignment, for example) and financial background. Furthermore, no one student takes the same classes every quarter, and the number of classes that one takes can vary from two to four -- a huge difference. A scheme should take this into account; ideally, a system can be implemented where the professors in charge of a certain class can estimate the printing needs for the quarter, send this figure on to a central database which can then calculate the quota for each individual student.

Special provisions also need to exist for unique cases. A research assistant for a professor has vastly more printing needs than the ordinary student. This also applies in many other cases; a student writing a thesis is an apt illustration. There should also be a system in which professors or academic departments can verify the special status of a student to Computing Services, who can then either lift this quota or assign a much higher number of pages printed per term to this student.

Finally, the Greenprint service level should be increased in quality and quantity. I applaud Computing Services and Student Assembly's efforts to expand Greenprint stations throughout the campus; the Fayers, Collis, Feldberg and Berry all have print stations. However, it is a well-known fact that the Collis Greenprint stations are frequently out-of-service, and are generally less reliable as compared to the Berry print stations. If the college decides to charge for printing, then it must make sure to see that there is a proper channel for redress (for example, if one is charged for 50 blank pages due to a faulty ink cartridge) as well as make sure that all the print stations remain functional throughout the day.

It is evident that implementing such a system is complex, and the problems are manifold. There are many ways around the supposed aim of the quota to prevent wastage. For example, there are even the problems of a black market developing; what is to stop a student from selling 50 pages of his quota for a price lower than that charged by Computing Services? This is certainly efficient from an economic perspective, but is this ethical? Monitoring is also another problem; how can the college verify that a print job was faulty, bar a security camera or a constant human presence at the Greenprint stations? Can the Student Assembly adequately marshal up the ideas of the whole student body and present them to Computing Services, given that mostly '05s are on during Summer term, making it hard to both disseminate the relevant information and consult with the rest of the student body?

The fact that Dartmouth does not charge for printing should be seen as a telling indicator of Dartmouth's commitment to a first-class education, and a selling point to potential students. It would be a sad day for the College as an academic institution when a student decides to forgo an optional reading that might add to his in-class academic experience because of printing costs. Even sadder would be the day when 50 pages of printing could be sold for a price on campus.