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Two sides to every issue — Double-sided default printer-setting to benefit students

Submitted by on 02.04.2013 – 9:20 pm

Utilizing the double-sided print option may seem like a few extra clicks on a mouse button to some, but Alysha Van Zante, ASUI director of sustainability, believes the setting can benefit the university community.

Amy Asanuma | Argonaut Junior Emily Forsberg sifts through paper in search of an essay at the campus library. ITS and the Sustainability Center worked to establish default front-back printing campus-wide.

Amy Asanuma | Argonaut
Junior Emily Forsberg sifts through paper in search of an essay at the campus library. ITS and the Sustainability Center worked to establish default front-back printing campus-wide.

“It is something every student can do to improve sustainability on campus on a daily basis,” Van Zante said.
Van Zante met with representatives from University of Idaho Information Technology Services at the beginning of last fall, she said, to discuss double-sided printing. As the liaison between ASUI and the UI Sustainability Center, she has worked since then to establish default front-back printing across campus computer labs and kiosks this spring.
Van Zante said ITS representatives encouraged her from the start to push the idea. She put the settings switch to a student body vote at the fall ASUI elections, and received a 72 percent margin in the idea’s favor.
She said she also discussed it with the Faculty Senate Information Technology Committee, achieved proposal approval from the Faculty Senate and approached the English department to get a sense of faculty concerns about double-sided assignment submissions.
Luke Michelson, ITS student computing services manager, said faculty approval was the most significant factor for implementation of the new print settings.
“What we really needed was buy-in from the faculty for this,” he said. “(Van Zante has) really gone and pushed this a lot further than anyone else has … She’s talked to everyone, and everyone’s on board now.”
Michelson said the English department was one of the primary advocates for single-sided printing a few years ago, because notes written in red ink would bleed through student papers and clutter the text on front-back submissions.
Van Zante said the English department has structured sufficient technology options for online submissions, so the red ink problem has become less visible.
David Duarte, a senior broadcasting and digital media student, said he emails many of his class assignments. He said he would rather use online systems for all of his coursework for the convenience and the peace of mind, since there wouldn’t be a hard copy to lose or forget.
“I definitely wish all classes were on Blackboard,” Duarte said. “It just makes it more convenient for us to have (everything) right then and there … And as soon as they’re done grading it (we) get everything right back.”
He said he sees lots of students utilize the ITS Help Desk kiosks in the Idaho Commons between classes, and he averages 10 to 20 printed pages per week for class work.
He said he’s often in a rush to print, so he uses the default single-sided settings. He tosses unneeded pages into the recycle bin by the printer, he said, because it’s close.
Duarte believes switching default print settings to front-back will save paper.
Chuck Lanham, ITS assistant director, said there are likely hundreds of pages unclaimed every day at the Help Desk printer. Across the 15 computer labs and 80  kiosk computers, Lanham said the campus prints four million pages annually, up from three million pages five years ago.
He said he has heard stories of a single class using up all of a student’s semester-allotted print pages. In an era of online submission technology such as Blackboard, and in which people should be thinking about reduction, he said he doesn’t understand what’s fueling the excessive printer output.
“Is it homework related?” Lanham said. “Are they printing out notes? Are they printing out web pages or e-mails, (or) the ‘Dilbert’ of the day?”
Lanham said the benefits of double-sided printing aren’t limited to paper turnaround. Students will use fewer of their allotted semester pages, and in turn will save money on future purchases to increase their allotment. The printers will require less frequent repairs due to less intensive printing, and less money will go toward ink purchases. Students may also benefit, he said, from the money freed up in their student technology fees if it can be put toward software, hardware and bandwidth concerns instead.
Michelson said ITS has worked with the Sustainability Center in the past to encourage front-back printing, using desktop instruction icons and how-to mouse pads. Now that the default settings switch has been approved, he said the next step is to inform the students.
Van Zante said she wants to see the shift remain permanent, which is why she sought input from so many people. In the future, she would like to create a presentation for faculty on the need for online course structures.
She said her efforts were merely a part of the partnership between ASUI and the Sustainability Center, and she appreciates the input of the faculty, administration and student body members who have assisted the project.
“It’s been a really great process because everyone’s been so cooperative,” Zante said. “It’s been hard to approach so many individual groups to make sure their
concerns were addressed, but this shows the UI community is committed to sustainability.”
Matt Maw can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu

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