Changes to printing policies

We're changing our printing policies to match our new lab space.
Here are the details about how and why.

February 9, 2016

Last semester, we moved from our trusty old space in 6A Hearst Gym into our shiny new home in 171 MLK, more than twice the size and conveniently located in the ASUC Student Union.

The new lab is great: it's larger, more accessible, and has allowed us to serve many more users than in previous semesters, especially with the lab being open later.

However, coupled with the lab being open later, we've seen huge jumps in overall lab traffic. We're breaking records for the number of people in the lab and the number of pages being printed nearly every day. Even with the increased capacity, we're filling the lab nearly every day.

We want the lab to be a great place to work.

The lab is our most important asset, and we want it to be a great place for students to work, study, and collaborate. It doesn't serve its purpose when there's a 15-person long line to sit at a computer because people are waiting on printers.

Our vision for the lab is for it to be a collaborative space, not just the campus free printing hub. Printing is an important service, and we're not ending it. But we're expecting to spend over $13,000 on printing alone this year even after making the changes outlined here, and we just don't have the money to continue printing at the current level.

Lab usage from a busy day this semester. There are 27 computers in the lab.

We've spent a lot of time trying to figure out how best to meet our budget while impacting the fewest people. Below we'll describe the changes we're making and our rationale for them.

The daily quota is decreasing to 8 on weekdays, and 16 on weekends.

So far this semester, we've had an average of about 750 users in the lab each day. That's a huge jump from last semester, where the average was closer to 500.

Unfortunately, our resources haven't kept up with the increased demand. When you subtract out moving expenses, such as purchasing another 15 computers, monitors, and peripherals, our budget this year is less than it was last year in a space half the size.

Not only are we facing budget troubles, but our printers are starting to fail. They've both now printed over a million pages. They're several years old and starting to show it. The near-doubling of printing this semester has greatly increased the frequency of paper jams and other technical glitches (just ask the front desk staff).

The number of students using the lab each day has greatly increased since 2014, with an especially large jump after the move to MLK (last semester, around November 16, 2015).

Since 2013, we've gone from printing about 10,000 pages per week, up to almost 40,000 pages per week this semester.

We're running the printers at more than four times the manufacturer's recommended maximum pages per month. We don't have much of a choice; we have to limit the pages printed per day, or we risk breaking our printers beyond repair.

Historically, we've implemented a number of measures to manage our levels of printing, including draft-quality printing, lower-quality paper, and third-party toner. However, the OCF has never faced such a massive increase in number of users, lab usage, and printing before. Long-term members of the OCF will remember that the weekday printing limit was 10 pages per day in 2014. Our budget and lab usage levels back then allowed us to increase the limit to the limit announced at the beginning of the school year, but we have to reverse this decision.

We're continuing the tradition of allowing double the number of pages on weekends. While we understand this is less convenient, we hope this will help strike a balance between the needs of our members and the physical limits of our printers.

The semesterly quota is decreasing to 100 pages per semester.

We spent a lot of effort trying to find ways to cut costs while affecting the least number of people. The semesterly quota turns out to be one of the best places we can make that happen.

The average user prints only 61 pages per semester, while a very small number of users (about 7%) actually come close to exceeding their semesterly quota (printing more than 200 pages). These users have a disproportionate impact on our printing costs, so we're decreasing the semesterly quota to help limit that expense.

The decrease to 100 pages per semester will affect only about 20% of our users.

Of course, we know that many people pace their printing throughout the semester, and we want to ensure we're being fair. As such, we're not taking into account the number of pages you've already printed this semester*.

This means that you'll still have a full quota of 100 pages to work with for the rest of the semester, starting today.

Daily quota changes will take effect on Tuesday. Semesterly quotas have already been changed.

Starting on Tuesday, February 16th, the new daily quotas will be enforced. The grace period is intended to avoid penalizing people who had already planned to print large jobs in the next few days.

The semesterly quota change has already taken effect. We feel this is fair, as we're not affecting anyone's short-term plans. The reason for the immediate implementation is that it helps to avoid a rush to print in the coming days before a semesterly quota reset.

We know printing changes are inconvenient.

It's unfortunate that we have to make these changes, and we hope that in future semesters we can find the resources to raise quotas again.

In addition the the OCF lab, we'd also like to remind you that there are other places to print on campus, such as the libraries, the ResComp-run labs in the dorms, and your program's computer labs (e.g. Dwinelle Language Lab, Athlete's Printing Room, Soda Hall).

In the mean time, we hope you'll continue to use the OCF lab in its entirety; the convenient location, open space, and comfy furniture make it a great place to work between classes or late at night.

Our volunteer student staff are always open to hearing your thoughts. If you'd like to get in touch, feel free to contact us, or come to one of our weekly meetings on Tuesdays at 7:10pm in the lab.

* We won't take into account pages you've already printed this semester, with the exception of members who have already have a balance of less than 100 pages; for these members (only about 15 of them), we won't modify or lower your balance at all.

Adjusted printing limits

Starting Tuesday, Feb 16th, the following daily printing limits will be in effect:

  • On weekdays, 8 pages per day.
  • On weekends, 16 pages per day.
  • Per semester, 100 pages*.

About the Open Computing Facility

The OCF is an all-volunteer student organization.

Our staff work hard to provide valuable services to the campus community:

Our volunteers work within their limited budget to try to offer valuable services.
Learn more about the OCF volunteers.