Faculty awaiting word on OU printing program

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An
Ohio University Faculty Senate resolution expressing a variety of concerns
about a printing service contract with ComDoc went unsigned May 21, pending an
announcement from the university administration this week.

Faculty
Senate chair Joe McLaughlin said Tuesday that at this point, there is no plan
to sign the resolution.

“Apparently,
some sort of statement on ComDoc is forthcoming this week – we think – and we
are waiting to see it before we decide whether a resolution is necessary,”
McLaughlin said in an email.

The
faculty senate website shows that the resolution was passed by the body on
March 12, but not signed on May 21, when it was scheduled for possible signing.

OU
Vice President for Finance and Administration Stephen Golding said Friday that
the ComDoc announcement would be forthcoming shortly, perhaps even that day,
but there had been no announcement by Sunday at The Athens NEWS‘ print time.

Faculty
members around the university have expressed concerns about costs and
efficiency in relation to the new printing services contract with ComDoc.
University officials have maintained that the main goal of the agreement has
been to forge a reduction in printing, copying and toner costs around the campus
by taking on a monthly flat fee.

The
resolution passed March 12 by Faculty Senate resolves that OU should “either negotiate exemptions to the Print Responsibly
program for all departments, schools, colleges, or support units that would see
an increase in their printing budget as a result of the contract.”

Further, the resolution suggests another
alternative, whereby departments and units would be held harmless for the first
phase of Print Responsibility, after which the ComDoc contract “and
its effect on the core missions of teaching and research shall be fully
assessed and discussed with chairs, school directors, and Faculty Senate.”

The resolution further states that all future
university-wide service or purchasing contracts obtain the approval of “a significant
proportion of affected department, school or support unit budget directors,”
and that any unit disadvantaged by a university-wide contract be compensated
out of savings incurred elsewhere.

During a faculty senate meeting in March, Golding
explained
that the five-year ComDoc agreement is intended as an extension of
BobcatBuy, leveraging university procurement processes across cost categories
in order to save the university money as a whole.

The
minutes for the meeting say Golding acknowledged that while implementing the
program will entail growing pains, it aims to put money back into individual
departments.

“Other
institutions that have implemented managed printing systems have saved
money,” Golding stated as recorded in the meeting’s minutes. “Teams
have met with colleges and departments to find out what printers they have, and
the goal is to come up with a tailored strategy for each department or college
to meet its needs. In the long run, a single contract will yield both savings
and a standard, improved set of printing tools that will also serve students by
allowing for printing across campus.”

The
faculty senate resolution maintains that “university-wide contracts have the potential to
disrupt long-term budget, logistical, and sustainability planning by individual
units,” and that “the contract with ComDoc will significantly raise costs in
some units and result in the replacement and disposal of cost-effective
hardware, despite any overall saving to the University or projected improvement
in the University’s carbon footprint.”

It also says that “neither the general terms of the contract nor estimate
of costs to individual units were made available to department or school budget
directors before the contract was signed.”

The resolution appears to have support in the OU community.

A
letter from a number of Department of Psychology professors May 11 to
McLaughlin expressed support for the resolution.

“As
noted in this resolution, the ComDoc printing agreement is at odds with a
Responsibility-Centered Management approach to budgeting, was decided without
consultation or consideration of those who will be adversely affected by this
decision on a daily basis, and will result in a significant financial loss for
many departments on campus,” it said.

For
the psychology department specifically, it went on, the move to the ComDoc
printing plan would increase printing costs by $40,000 per year, “jeopardize
the confidentiality of sensitive student documents (e.g. grade reports, exams,
and letters of recommendation)” and increase the amount of faculty time devoted
to document printing.

“In
the absence of an open and honest dialogue about the benefits and consequences
to faculty and departments, we do not support the move toward the ComDoc
printing plan,” the letter concludes.

College
of Arts and Sciences Interim Dean Howard Dewald shared a memo with the AS
faculty that he received during a meeting May 16 with OU administrators Mike
Angelini, associate vice president for finance, and Laura Nowicki, director of
procurement services.

Dewald
informed AS faculty that he told the administrators that his college would
comply with the ComDoc agreement, though he also expressed his “continuing
dismay with the lack of an alternative solution.”

In
the memo provided by Dewald – which does not have an author listed on it – the
university explains its decision to transition to ComDoc. It lists advantages
such as pricing that rewards units for participating, standardization of
equipment, superior equipment, standardization of service terms and a reduction
in less efficient or duplicative equipment.

The
memo states that ComDoc has investigated the OU printing situation and
concluded that non-network desktop printers cost $0.04 to $0.50 per page,
compared to $0.025 per page for units participating in the ComDoc program.

“The
reduction of as many of the desktop devices, where operationally possible, will
lead to drastic reductions to the university’s overall printing/copying costs,”
the memo states.

The
memo states that any units currently unable to participate fully or at all due
to current outstanding leases should conform to institutional standards once those
existing agreements or equipment expire.

“For
units who choose not to participate in the university’s cost per copy program,
existing non-networked laser printers and inkjet printers are allowable. In
some operational cases, these relatively inefficient and inferior devices may
be necessary,” the memo said. “Units who choose to retain these devices in
their units must do so only until the devices are no longer operable. The
university will not support the purchase of printers with any funds… outside of
the cost per copy program.”

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