December 1, 2009

Scrapping paper

The University made right decision in eliminating hard copies of the course catalog.

Some undergrads may fondly remember the day they received their hefty course catalogs in the mail, along with other admissions material. But just as many can remember the frustration they felt when the out-of-date catalog proved virtually useless. Both a tremendous waste of money and a sustainability concern, hard-copy course catalogs are finally being phased out. Now, the University should take steps to make its online course catalog easier to navigate.

The hard-copy catalogs cost tens of thousands of dollars and used a huge amount of paper, yet were out-of-date virtually before they were printed. This held especially true since the University stopped annual printing six years ago in favor of biennial publication. By 2008, the course information in the 2006-2008 catalog was essentially useless.

Moreover, the distribution of catalogs was astonishingly gratuitous—students received copies both after enrolling and after arriving on campus. And, of course, copies were always freely available at the advising desk. It’s encouraging, then, that the University is following through on its commitment to sustainability and ending this unnecessary practice.

Unfortunately, the online-only catalog—the only alternative now that the print version has been scrapped—remains somewhat outdated. Adding a search function would be a major improvement that would allow students to search the course catalog more easily, by professor or general topic, for example. In addition, the online catalog is available in PDF format only, an annoyance for those trying to easily scroll through course options. These changes would make it easier for students to select classes.

It’s a good thing the University has reduced its printing costs and environmental impact by phasing out the hard-copy catalog. But there’s always room for improvement: Administrators should cap this achievement by making the online version more user-friendly.

— The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Viewpoints Editors, and two additional Editorial Board members .