Ten cents, none the richer

As you have probably already heard, Tufts is planning on charging us ten cents for each page that we print at the Eaton computer lab and at the Tisch and Ginn Libraries. They claim that they are doing it for environmental reasons, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Charging for printing is a trend among colleges and universities as a cost-cutting measure, just as outsourcing janitorial work was a trend in the early 1990s as a cost-cutting measure. Remember when Tufts fired all of their janitors and rehired them through a third party for significantly lower wages? Tufts tried to get away with beating up on them. Now they are trying to get away with beating up on us.

Not only are they trying to hit us up for money, but they’re also trying to sneak it by us without our notice. The Tufts Daily first reported on this story on Oct. 29 _ just four weeks before a final decision is made on Dec. 1. I also suspect that there has been no student input on this decision. But of course, neither of these situations is new.

Two summers ago, Tufts installed eight television sets in Dewick that you could not turn off, nor could you turn the volume down. It had only one channel that ran advertisements and bad music videos. They did this over the summer to sneak it by us. Tufts tried to get away with making money off of us by feeding us advertisements in dining halls that many of us are forced to pay to eat at. Now they are trying to make money off of us by making us pay to print our papers for our classes that we are also paying to attend.

Do not be fooled. This is not about saving trees; it’s about making money. If Tufts truly wanted to be environmentalists, it could have come up with many alternative solutions that did not involve charging students. Three options that have already been voiced are implementing the Eaton system at Tisch, being more vigilant about what is printed, and dedicating a certain printer to print drafts on reused paper. A fourth option is to print on both sides of a page. I am sure that there are other ideas out there.

The very least that Tufts could have done would have been to ask for student input. They did not because their motive is economic, not environmental. Tufts is at best, misrepresenting themselves and at worst, lying. Tisch Director Jo-Ann Michalak told The Tufts Daily that Tufts wants to provide “services that we feel are more valuable than chopping down trees.” If Michalak is ready to purchase treeless hemp paper, I am behind her all the way. But somehow I suspect that the fee-based printing services will still use paper made from downed trees.

The only possible allusion to an economic rationale that Michalak gives us is that the library cannot support increases in the amounts of paper used. But there is a much more powerful economic incentive. If you do the math, it is not difficult to figure out what the economic incentive to switch to a fee-based printing policy is.

Let us calculate exactly how much money Tufts is planning on making off of us next year, using last year’s figures:

According to The Tufts Daily (“Tisch, Ginn, Eaton to charge for printing,” 10/29/02), “Tisch Library used 25 tons of paper…cost[ing] the university $60,000.” One ream of typical 20 bond paper weighs five pounds. There are 500 sheets in each ream. That means Tisch used five million sheets of paper last year. Staples.com advertises six cases of 20 bond paper, each containing 5,000 sheets, for $27.99. That comes out to .5598 cents per page. It would be even cheaper for Tufts because they buy paper in much greater quantities and they are a non-profit organization.

If Tufts plans on charging students ten cents per sheet, they would be making at least 9.4402 cents on every sheet that you print (minus toner costs _ which I do not have available). If students print five million sheets of paper, as they did last year, Tufts would make over $47 million in profit at Tisch Library alone. Tisch would go from losing $60,000 each year to gaining $47 million _ a gain of $107 million. Throw in the printing at Eaton computer lab and the Ginn Library and it starts to make sense why Tufts has suddenly become proactive about environmental causes.

Even if the number of students who use Tisch, Eaton, and/or Ginn for their printing tapers off and the cost of toner and maintenance is added, the economic benefit for Tufts is unmistakable.

Of course, Tufts does not care if students begin to abuse TCU-funded student organizations for their personal printing costs _ that is our problem. Nor does Tufts care if students begin to abuse their friendships with people whom own printers in their rooms. That is also our problem.

Hiding behind the nearly invulnerable banner of environmentalism, Tufts is trying to use our morality against us to make us feel guilty about killing trees. Tufts wants to create a squabble between the environmentalists on campus and those who advocate for student rights, avoiding the heat of criticism while they slip their plan through. They work as a pair of thieves does _ one person distracts you, while the other one picks your pocket. And no one will be impacted more than low-income students. There are few things that are more corrupt than to steal from low-income people. But if that was not bad enough, misleading us by telling us that they are doing it to save the trees is about as low as you can get.