Reducing the Paper Trail

University to centralize, network, and charge for printing

By Chris Berdik

Nearly 200 new computer workstations will be part of a revamped Mugar first floor this fall. The area will also house BU’s central Print Center, which will print jobs sent from any computer on campus connected to the BU network. Photo by Chris Berdik

Nearly 200 new computer workstations will be part of a revamped Mugar first floor this fall. The area will also house BU’s central Print Center, which will print jobs sent from any computer on campus connected to the BU network. Photo by Chris Berdik

Don’t print this story. In a bid to save both money and trees, Boston University will begin charging for printing in the fall semester. In addition, printing services are being centralized, networked, and hopefully speeded up, but late-night printing orders, generally from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m., won’t be processed until the next morning.

Undergraduates, faculty, and staff will be allocated 100 free sheets of printed paper per semester on the University’s high-speed printers, but every additional sheet will cost 12 cents. The per-semester allocations for graduate students will be 500 sheets, and 1,000 sheets for law students.

Any computer connected to the Boston University campus network will be capable of printing to the University’s high-speed printers, which will now be located exclusively in print centers in Mugar Memorial Library and the School of Law (law students only) and in mailrooms at the following locations: Warren Towers, Myles Standish Hall, Towers, the Student Village, Rich Hall, and 518 Park Dr. (South Campus). Printing fees will be deducted from Convenience Points.

Hours for the Mugar Print Center will be:

Saturday – 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Sunday – 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Monday to Thursday – 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Friday – 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Unless otherwise posted, mailroom hours are:

Saturday – noon to 6 p.m.

Sunday – noon to 1 a.m.

Monday to Thursday – 9 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Friday – 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

These changes are part of an overhaul of the University’s computer and printing services, centered on Mugar Library. By the end of the summer, much of the library’s first floor will have been transformed into BU Common@Mugar, an updated common study area outfitted with printing, scanning, photocopying, and IT support. The aging machines that used to populate the library will be replaced with about 200 Thin Client computer workstations; more than 100 of these will be clustered on the first floor in common areas with soft seating, tables, and whiteboards.

“It’s all meant to be conducive to group study and collaboration,” says Catherine McLaughlin, Mugar’s administrative coordinator.

In addition to the new computers, the library’s reference desk will be renamed the Research Center to go along with a new IT Help Center, a Scan and Copy Center (with free scanning), and a Print Center. Also as of September, the University’s other main computer lab, at 111 Cummington St., will be no more, while ResLabs, the common areas in residences furnished with computers and printers, will each have two Thin Client computer workstations, wireless Internet, and LCD displays, but no printers.

The new printing policy is based on the recommendations of a working group convened to study the issue last spring by University President Robert A. Brown. Among the findings: in fiscal year 2008, nearly 13 million sheets of paper were consumed by print jobs at computer labs managed by BU’s Information Technology office, a paper trail that could stretch from Boston to Jacksonville, Fla., and back.

When the idea of a printing fee was being debated last spring, some students argued that their tuition covered printing, and therefore any additional costs would be double-charging. But Michael Krugman, associate vice president for information systems and technology, who chaired the working group, says the lack of a direct connection between the volume of printing and its cost “caused huge waste.” He estimated printing costs for the University to be “north of a million dollars [a year], maybe several million dollars,” driven by much duplication and unnecessary printouts.

“Students can now buy a printer for $50 to $100 that’s more capable than what we provide,” Krugman said last spring. “We believe that pretty much every student owns a printer, but they don’t necessarily bring it to the University.” With the new policy, that may change.

“A decade or two ago, it was an affordable service for the University to provide,” says Krugman, “but as more people did everything electronically, including printing out textbooks delivered online, it became an open-ended liability for us, particularly now as we focus on sustainability.”

The new policy will be overseen by Tracy Schroeder, Boston University’s new vice president for information systems and technology. We asked her for more details.

BU Today: How will the new printing system work?

Schroeder: You will submit the print job from any computer connected to the BU campus network, including your personal computer. Then, you will go into the online BU MyPrint site and enter your Kerberos password to release the job.

Printing will be double-sided, unless you request otherwise. The Print Center will hold onto a hard copy for five days before discarding it.

Where should people turn for troubleshooting and technical support?

They should contact the IT Help Center, which will be located in the new BU Common@Mugar and at the main offices at 533 Comm Ave.

Do you expect delays as print jobs queue up?

In the old system, for an average, typical job, there was a four- to five-minute delay between when a job was submitted and when it came out of the printer. We don’t know how heavy the demand for printing from personal computers will be and whether that will increase the queue for printing, but in general when you charge for printing, the volume goes down. So I expect that delay to be even shorter, on the order of a few minutes.

Are any of these changes affecting the Medical Campus?

Not at present. Their semester starts earlier than the Charles River Campus, and so they weren’t going to be ready to deploy anything for the fall. We decided to defer any decisions until January 2010.

How will faculty and staff printing be affected?

This new policy doesn’t apply to departmental printers or local printers in offices. It only applies to centralized printing at the University computer lab locations and the print stations located in student residential buildings. If a faculty or staff member chose to submit a job to one of the high-speed printers at Mugar, then it would be counted against their allocation.

Chris Berdik can be reached at cberdik@bu.edu.

This article first appeared in BU Today on August 9, 2009.

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