Without free printing, Mac Lab frenzy turns to study

The change in printing policy has brought the space a more “workman-like atmosphere,” the director said

By Will Sims

With free printing over, the Mac Lab is a quieter, more studious place—just as it was intended to be, according to its administrator.

The Mac Lab ended its free printing service at the beginning of Winter Quarter in order to curb printing costs and join the Unified Printing system.

The change in printing policy has brought the space a more “workman-like atmosphere,” said William Sterner, director of the Computer Science Department and the Mac Lab. “We’ve reverted to how the Mac Lab was last year, before Unified Printing,” he said. “We had, especially in the Autumn Quarter, lots of people coming in just to print, and it got a bit on the manic side.”

Previously, the Lab’s policies had allowed students to print up to 30 black-and-white pages of self-created material per week. It had been the last place on campus to print for free, and the policy change forced students to use either personal printers or the campus’s Unified Printing Service, which charges ten cents per page.

“Most people expressed disappointment when the policy changed, but were generally understanding,” Sterner said. He emphasized that while the behavior of the students using the Lab changed, the Mac Lab is still experiencing a high level of use. “The Lab is pretty much full,” he said, gesturing out over several rows of students hunched over silver iMacs.

Students working in the Lab said they had adapted to its new role, explaining that while they regretted the change in printing policy, they still saw the Mac Lab as a useful resource for on-campus e-mail and Facebook checks. Now, many of them use the Unified Printing Service to print.

“I used to use the Lab to print a couple times a week,” second-year Julia Silverman said. Since the change, she has been doing more of her reading on the computer, and printing from Unified Printing when necessary. “The school should offer some sort of free printing service. Even if they strictly limit the number of pages you can print per week ,it would still make a difference. When we’re assigned at least 50 pages of reading per week for every class, it ends up costing a lot of money,” she said.

The Mac Lab had always offered free printing but, according to Sterner, the behavior of students only really began to change at the beginning of the 2009­—10 school year. “It became clearer and clearer in the context of the Unified Printing Service that we would be targeted by students as a place to print,” he said. “If we didn’t join , it would have a negative impact on the lab.”

Sterner said the Mac Lab was involved in the initial discussions regarding the installation of the Unified Printing Service as early as last spring, and was ready to launch the new system in the middle of autumn quarter of 2009, but technical difficulties led to delays, and the launch was moved until the end of fall quarter to minimize inconvenience for students.

Sterner estimated that the free printing service cost the Computer Science Department around $20,000 per year. The money will now be used for other budget items in the Computer Science Department, such as new hardware or software suites.