Stetson Print Scandal: Miscommunication, Lack of PR Incites Student Outrage Postponing Print Limit


Stetson’s plan to restrict the number of copies students can print on campus has been delayed after a post online exposed the policy prematurely.

According to Bill Penney, Associate Vice president for Information Technology, although the university was hoping to have the limit in effect by the start of the academic year, the plan had not been finalized at the time of the informal announcement.

“There were some missteps and some poor communication, and then it really kinda exploded into something that no one really planned for,” said Christopher Kandus-Fisher, Vice President of Student Affairs. 

The limit, which was expected to be implemented during the fall semester, has been directed to the Values Commitment Steering Team for further evaluation and research.

President of SGA, Aaron Bibbee, said plans were postponed after his letter expressing concern was presented to the president’s cabinet by Kandus-Fisher.

“I think they [SGA] heard the student’s voices and they wanted to bring it forward, which they should,” said Kandus-Fisher. “Collectively, we came together and pushed to stop the print limit to figure out how we can do it better.”

Dr. Robert Sitler, the chair of the Values Commitment Steering Team, said the procedure for the upcoming decision has yet to be fully determined, but will include a great amount of student input.

“I’m really in the info gathering process myself,” Sitler said. 

The committee is expected to work on the decision throughout the fall semester.

“By the time we get to the end of the semester, there is a recommendation that comes to the cabinet, and we will make a decision there,” said Kandus-Fisher.

News about the print limit was first revealed when a member of the library staff posted a sign to inform incoming tours of the new policy. Conversations and rumors started to spread when a student took a picture of the sign and shared it on social media.

Jason Martin, Head of Public Services at the duPont-Ball Library, said the library received permission from the Office of Information Technology (IT) to notify visitors.

“We talked with several people from IT about what it meant for the library that pay-for-print was coming,” said Martin. “We offered to try to help spread the word by putting some signs up in the library.”

“I personally approved this sign and it was in no way a library decision,” confirmed Penney.

When the announcement was made, many students were outraged that they were not informed on the matter.

“There were a lot of people upset about it, rightly so, because there was no build up to this; there was no publicity, and that was what we were trying to do,” Martin said.

According to the Dean of the Library, Sue Ryan, the sign was up for less than 24 hours before it was taken down.


Photo credit: Katie Dezes

Soon after the photo online sparked conversation among students, SGA stepped into the picture.

“My only concern was that nobody told me it was going to happen,” said Bibbee.

Bibbee contacted Penney in IT and several staff members in Campus Life and Student Success, which led to the creation of the letter to convince the president’s cabinet to postpone the decision.

“Our angle was to push it back so we could have some say in what happens,” said Bibbee. “The administration worked really well with us. I don’t know what happened at the president’s cabinet, but Chris [Kandus-Fisher] came back and said we were good to go.”

According to Kandus-Fisher, whatever the new decision will be, it will be communicated more effectively. He said a limit for faculty and staff will be considered as well.

“If we are looking at it university wide, we all should be involved in it,” Kandus-Fisher said.

Penney said that the policy was only in the draft phase when the sign in the library was posted. There was no specific date of implementation or details set for the number of free prints allowed.

“The sign was put up little faster than the process took to complete and before any approval process had occurred for the policy,” Penney said.

“It was just zealousness,” Penney added. “If that sign had never been posted, no one would have heard of this, the committee would be started, and we would have continued figuring it out.”

The announcement gave SGA the opportunity to voice their opinion in the matter before plans progressed any further.

“At the very minimum, students can feel good that SGA thought that was going to happen and stepped up in the summer,” Penney said. “They questioned something that didn’t seem right.”

According to Penney, Stetson has been considering a restriction on printing for a long time. He said IT has been tracking the number of student prints for five to six semesters to collect data for the decision ever since Bob Huth, the Vice President for Business and Chief Financial Officer, expressed interest in saving resources.

Kandus-Fisher said the decision to begin evaluating the number of prints on campus was inspired by the university’s commitment to environmental responsibility.

“There was concern that there was a lot of wasted printing happening,” said Kandus-Fisher. “Some people were really using it the way they should, and others were not.”

Penney said, “What we really want to avoid, and we see it every single day, is the ream of paper being printed that no one looked at lying in the recycling bin.”

“Instead of going and buying a textbook from the bookstore or finding it from another resource, some students were finding it online somewhere, printing the whole thing, and binding it themselves,” Kandus-Fisher added.

Penney said the number 400 was thrown out as an idea for the limit because the tracking software showed that it was where the majority of students fell.

From memory, Penney stated that about 85 percent of the student body printed less than 400 copies. Of the 15 percent above that, about 96 percent used less than 500. Only a few students were off the charts with thousands of copies printed.

“I think the student’s got really worked up when the announcement went out that they were going to limit printing, and they didn’t realize that everyone kind of falls under that category,” said Kandus-Fisher.

“I bet you can’t find very many people that aren’t going to be supportive of this from the safe paper side,” Penney added. “What the university has to find is that sweet spot.”

Although 400 was the original number suggested, the committee may come up with a different result.

Penney was also planning to negotiate exceptions for students who need to print more copies for certain circumstances, such as senior research and creative writing workshops.

“We just have to find that perfect spot where we take care of everyone, find all the exceptions, and then catch the abusers,” Penney said.

Penney also stressed that the print limit will not be a money maker for the university. “It [the tracking software]was very expensive to buy and collecting two dollars from you, and one from you is not going to make the university money.”

Kandus-Fisher said that print limits like the one Stetson is considering are not uncommon for universities today.

“People get used to Stetson’s old ways, but they are not always sustainable ways for us as an institution to keep going,” he said.

By SGA’s request, Penney has agreed to speak at an open-forum about the print limit on Sept. 4 in the Stetson Room.