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Residential Computing may respond to printing abuse

In an effort to combat abuse of the printing system in dorms, Residential Computing (ResComp) may be moving to revamp the system and crack down on the most serious offenders.

Designed to give students the benefit of the doubt when it comes to canceling print jobs, the printing system in Stanford dorm computer clusters does not charge the usual 10 cents for pages that have already been printed when a job is canceled. This, however, allows students to bypass the charge altogether by terminating print jobs moments before they complete.

(JIN ZHU/Staff Photographer)

After several Residential Computing Consultants (RCCs) reported incidences of abuse, ResComp has identified a number of individuals who routinely cancel print jobs in a way that suggests they are systematically avoiding charges.

In the month of March, one student canceled 52 print jobs and another six students canceled more than twenty print jobs each, according to Surajit Bose, the head of Academic Computing Technology Services.

ResComp can identify users by their SUNet ID.

Some of these students have been reported to their respective residence deans, Bose said. But on behalf of ResComp, he declined to name which dorms are affected and what consequences students face, saying that “at this point, we believe the matter is better handled internally out of respect for the students.”

In order to close the loophole, ResComp has decided to introduce changes to the technical structure of Stanford’s printing system, according to Bose.

ResComp is faced with two options: the system could be configured to charge for each page as it prints or for the entire print job as soon as it is released to the printer. The latter option, while easier to implement technically, would lead to additional overhead costs because ResComp would be required to refund erroneous print jobs.

ResComp has not yet decided on one specific system and is still working on a concrete timetable for implementation.

In the meantime, Bose said, ResComp will continue to report serious offenders to resident fellows and residence deans and is also considering working with Judicial Affairs as it deems abuse of the printing system a breach of the Fundamental Standard.

“All options are on the table,” said Bose, who expressed disappointment at students’ apparent willingness to “steal” from the University. He said he was shocked to see the high numbers of abuse.

“We are not naive about the state of the world, but we have higher expectations of Stanford students,” Bose said.

Rick Yuen, a judicial officer, said ResComp has not referred printing-related cases to Judicial Affairs. He would not say what potential consequences students could face if found responsible for a printing-related Fundamental Standard or Honor Code violation.

“If we are asked for consultation or help[,] we would want to help build integrity on campus,” Yuen wrote in an e-mail to The Daily.

During fall quarter 2008—the most recent quarter for which statistics are available—Judicial Affairs had one case of “misuse of equipment/funds,” a Fundamental Standard violation, among 26 total cases.

The loophole is something of an open secret on campus. One female student, a senior majoring in management science & engineering, said she even got rid of her printer after learning how easy it was to avoid charges. One RCC said that “many RCCs know about it and do it, too.”

They and other students interviewed for this story would not identify themselves because of fear of disciplinary consequences.

Other students said that while they have heard about the loophole, they have no intention of cheating the system.

“It just feels wrong to me to use University resources without paying,” said Alexis Arnold ’11.

Bose also makes the argument that students will do themselves more harm than good if they continue to bypass printing charges. Though the University does not make a profit from printing services, it must generate enough revenue to break even—which is becoming increasingly difficult due to abuse, and which may force ResComp to increase printing costs for all students, according to Bose.

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