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The Greyhound

Implementation of ‘Paperless University’ out-of-touch


As classes resumed last Tuesday and we all funneled in to receive our new syllabi, dreading the impending drain on our finances that is the “required textbooks” list, it became readily apparent that change and had once again struck the Loyola bureaucracy. This time, however, the change was not a matter of trimming the redundant or backwards mechanisms of the system, but a full-spirited initiative that directly affects the student body for the convenience of the faculty. I’m speaking of the “Paperless University” initiative, which is addressed plainly on our own LUM website: “The Paperless University initiative is a commitment by the Loyola community to reduce cost and paper to optimize business processes by streamlining document management and implementing electronic workflows.”
But as more and more departments begin to adopt this initiative, it seems to have taken on a very narrow perspective towards its goal, turning the blinders on anything that cannot be filed under “cost reduction”. The result is an introductory class session which opens with a syllabus reading, proudly proclaiming that all students should have received theirs in an email because the department has nobly banned professors from razing more trees than is necessary, and closing with a stern warning that any and all technological devices will not be tolerated in the classroom. They are distracting springs of temptation, luring the diligent pupil away from his studies like some mechanical Satan. Yet the students must standby and continue to mark off the expenses column in their budget planner, accommodating for all the ink that must be shed to now come prepared to class.
My aim is not to disparage the Paperless University initiative in itself. I truly do stand firmly behind its principles. But the initiative has taken off on the wrong foot, stepping laterally and leaving someone else in the financial line of fire. The fact of the matter is that the refusal to print syllabi or required class materials in favor of posting them to Moodle does nothing for the environmental situation if the only other available outlet for these documents is barred from use. The pages still need to be printed—they don’t disappear with a declaration—they simply vanish from the administration’s finances to reappear on the student’s end, costing upwards of $30 to $60 in ink alone. If all of a student’s five or six classes adopt this same directive, then the cost of replacing empty ink cartridges arrives exponentially sooner and with greater frequency.
The paradox here lies in the contemporary academic view of technology. While it safely adopts the ease and efficiency of upgrading to electronic management systems in accordance with the initiative, trusting its own reliance on technology, it suddenly becomes paranoid and mistrusting when turned on others. The same technology which allows one to become mobile, flexible, and organized, suddenly become a beast of laziness and sloth in someone else’s hands.
It is extremely disheartening to be told that we cannot be trusted with the devices we use to research, edit, complete and turn in assignments every week. Of course there will be some who bring laptops to class to avoid paying attention, but there all kinds of students who do any number of things to avoid paying attention. Banning technology is no solution to that problem.
The solution here is not to do away with the Paperless University initiative—that would be ludicrous. But the professors, or the departments, or whoever decides the rules of the classroom need to realize that technology is rapidly becoming a necessary integration. Trust can be reciprocal, and amid our discussions of fostering the spiritual and academic aspects of our student body, we should at the same time foster the independence and mindfulness of these burgeoning, maturing adults. Indeed, just because a student arrives with the required materials, it does not guarantee that you have commanded their attention for the class. With or without technology, the dynamics are the same. For every one student who lazes on Facebook during a lecture, there are numerous others who are engaged with the material by annotating, highlighting and making notes, and most importantly, leaving the burdensome antiquated reliance on paper and ink in the past.

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Implementation of ‘Paperless University’ out-of-touch