Students at Binghamton University have printed more than 23.5 million pages from 30 campus printers since the start of the 2009-10 academic year. They have managed to do so despite frequent breakdowns and paper jams that regularly interrupt printer service in some locations.
All printers on campus fall under the auspices of Information Technology Services (ITS) in the Computer Center. ITS organizes the printers into nine administrative units: Outlying Areas, West Pod, the Science Library, Science II, Library North Ground, Color Printers, Academic A, Glenn G. Bartle Library and the UDC, though the latter is under construction. Of these units, the Bartle Library has received the most traffic since Aug. 31, with more than 2.1 million printed pages. The color printers were used the least during the same period, with about 5,000 printed pages.
PODS Manager Denise Hawkins said there were about 12 million pages printed last year, a slight decline from the year before.
“The decline in printing correlates to a decrease in summer and winter class enrollment,” Hawkins said.
The volume of pages printed in the Pods varies from month to month. From Aug. 31 to Nov. 1 this year, there have been about 3.13 million pages printed. Students printed 72,000 pages in the PODS on Nov. 1 alone.
Last winter, BU replaced its Lexmark printers with 15 new Xerox printers, according to James Conroy, acting director of academic computing, resulting in a net increase of three printers.
Students still frequently complain that PODS stations do not have enough printers.
“Regarding technology, the requests have and will always exceed the allocations,” Conroy said. “Currently there is not enough funding or space to expand the printers to new areas.”
Conroy blamed excess printing on “a culture of paper.”
“I have seen people print entire e-books … and while you are allowed to do that, it really defeats the point of the e-book,” Conroy said. “There is a culture of paper on this campus. It seems that there is an unspoken feeling among students that if it is not on paper, it is not important. Whenever a teacher posts something on Blackboard, many students feel the need to print it.”
Lisa Lieber, a sophomore double-majoring in math and economics, disagreed with Conroy’s analysis.
“I believe it is all preference,” Lieber said. “I personally don’t like reading things on the computer as it hurts my eyes after a while. I have found that when something is a hard text and I’m not on the Internet I can read it easier without getting distracted as much.”
BU’s system of “quota printing” is somewhat unique. Students are given $7.50 at the start of the semester and $2.75 per week thereafter to use on printing, which costs 5 cents per page. The money comes out of a $307.50 Technology Fee that students pay with their semester bill.
“We print a lot more than other universities,” Conroy said. “Printing is paid for by a Technology Fee. The fee … takes into consideration the costs of running a printer, that is to say the toner, and paper purchases. At SUNY Albany there is not such a system. You print, you pay — each page starting from page one is a cost that comes out of the students’ pocket.”
Conroy said the frequent slowdowns and problems with printing are caused by PowerPoint files that students print and the recycled paper that the printers use.
All New York state government institutions, which includes BU, are required to use recycled paper for all copy paper and printer supplies.
“The problem is the composition of the [recycled] paper,” Conroy said. “It is made of scraps of old paper and when the paper goes through a laser printer the heat of the process causes the paper to swell, changing its thickness and causing errors.”
PowerPoint files are also problematic because of their data size. When students print PowerPoint slides, the computer server has to re-size the images and then the printer has to process the files. Print jobs like these can overwhelm a printer, especially when it receives calls for multiple large-data print jobs in the queue.
With such a high volume of the campus’ printing taking place in Bartle Library, the staff at the Computer Help Desk is faced with near constant problems.
“There is a complaint nearly every 30 minutes, ranging from paper jams to toner problems,” said Mitalee Dixit, a Help Desk employee.
According to Dixit, the period from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. is peak time at Bartle Library. After 6 p.m., traffic declines.
“The most common complaint is a paper jam, in such an event, one of us would go to the printer, read the info screen and it would guide us to the problem area,” Dixit said. “Here we would see which part was jamming or not functioning and adjust it. If there is a problem that we can not fix, tech services from the Computer Center are called.”