If you’ve been a student here at Southwestern for at least two weeks, then you have most likely discovered the wonderful place that is the 24-hour print lab, a room that you can go to at any hour to print the ridiculously long papers that professors expect you to read or the ten page assignments that they ask you to complete. Best of all, the paper that you print on isn’t bought with your own credit card, but is freely supplied by the school.
But is it really free? Signs in the print lab tell students that print jobs cost .07 cents for single sided and .08 cents for double sided prints (which is a real money saver if you always print double sided). But where does this money come from? It comes from your Pirate Print account, which has been set up for each student with a thirty dollar balance for printing and is renewed each semester. This is a change in the system from last year, and is an effort by the school to reduce waste and be more environmentally friendly.
According to Bob Paver, Associate Vice President of Information Technology Services,
“Before Pirate Print, you could go into the lab and see paper everywhere and around the printer. The recycle bins would be full to the top. Students were printing documents that they never picked up and were printing multiple copies of documents when they didn’t really need them.”
All this waste was adding up to be a huge expense to the university and was definitely not environmentally friendly. Bob Paver and the rest of the ITS staff hope that this new policy will help students to “be more conscious of what they’re printing”.
When and if students run out of their thirty dollars of printing money, they must put their own money onto a Top-Up card. This money allows the student to continue printing, but at their own expense. It will work kind of like an iTunes card- students will buy two dollar or five dollar cards out of vending machines and then be able to redeem them with a serial number on their Pirate Print account website. ITS, though, does not foresee this being a problem. Data analyses of student’s printing last year showed that 90 percent of students use less than thirty dollars of printing money, and ITS fully expects this to be a sufficient amount for students this year.
Another change to Pirate Print is the addition of a color printer. It allows for large prints, can print one or two sided, and is only 35 cents a page (this is quite a bargain). The hope is that students needing to print images or graphs will utilize this new feature, although realistically, ITS doesn’t know how often it will actually get used.
The final change that has been made is that there are no longer print release stations next to the printers. Instead, each student can log on to a print page on his or her own computer and release the print from there. This change makes printing more convenient for students, because they do not have to stand in line at the computer by the printer, sign on and release their prints each time they want to print something. In addition, the area around the printers is less crowded.
Overall, students have a mixed view of the changes that have been made to Pirate Print.
“Honestly, I haven’t had too much experience with the new printing system. I don’t mind the thirty dollar limit so much because I feel that the couple of cents they charge per page is reasonable. Also, using the print website is a bit tedious but it opens the space in front of the printer that was usually congested with people waiting for their work to print,” Junior Mark Leppla said.
Laura Pfeffer, also a junior, says, “I think it’s a good way to limit printing in order to save some trees, but there are some people who have to print out readings for class because their professor doesn’t make a course packet, and I don’t think it’s fair that they have to use their $30 for that.”
The only problem that ITS has seen with the system so far this year is that many of the documents that students are asked to print for class are stored online as image files and therefore take a very long time to print. This holds up the other prints jobs, and you end up with students waiting an unnecessary amount of time for the three page paper that they’re trying to print. And when students are coming in to the print lab five minutes before their class starts and then have to wait, they sometimes leave without picking up their assignment (which wastes paper) or are late to class. ITS is looking for a way to resolve this problem, but Bob Paver advises that “until we do, students need to plan ahead.”