Clarification on MTSU’s Recent Print Policy Changes

MTSU has been experiencing numerous issues since the implementation of a new print policy for spring of 2015. (MTSU Sidelines/Meagan White)

After the implementation of a new printing system and the imposition of a policy limiting a service that once provided unlimited printing, many MTSU students voiced complaints.

Under the new policy, MTSU students would be allotted $8 per semester for printing, the equivalent of 320 black-and-white pages. The limit primarily affected graduate students, but the majority of students seemed displeased, especially after having grown accustomed to unlimited printing.

To make matters worse, the new system was frequently out of order. Printing hubs, like the James E. Walker Library and the Business and Aerospace Building, experienced numerous printer issues, leaving students even more frustrated. Additionally, a proper explanation for the new system was not ever made clear to the student body, further exacerbating an already sore scenario.

Contracting a more cost efficient system

In the summer of 2013, MTSU met with RJ Young, an independent business that supplies office technology, software and equipment, to establish a contract between the institution and the company. The contract, which was purchased by the university in October of 2013, according to the Tennessee Board of Regents Contracts System, outlines the scope of services to be provided by the contractor, Robert J. Young, and MTSU.

“It’s a print services contract,” explained Bruce Petryshak, Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer at MTSU. “The university doesn’t buy printers or lease printers or copiers, it’s supplied. So RJ Young supplies the printers, the copiers, the supplies, the toner. All that stuff is all included, and then we (MTSU) pay for what we use.”

Previously, MTSU either owned or leased all the printers and copiers on campus. Part of MTSU’s contractual agreement with RJ Young is that they supply the printers, so the university only pays for the equipment when it’s being used, as opposed to the university having to pay a leaser regardless of whether or not the equipment was being utilized.

“So if no one uses anything, we don’t get a bill,” Petryshak said. “If somebody starts to print, that’s when we get charged, and that’s where it’s cost effective. You’re not paying for something just sitting there.”

Reoccurring software setbacks 

With the introduction of a new supplier came the introduction of new software to the campus. RJ Young uses a software system called UniFlow, which replaced the campus’ previous system, GoPrint. In addition to the new software, new print stations were installed that were compatible with UniFlow. These stations featured card readers where students would swipe their student ID cards in order for the system to keep up with who was printing so they could be billed accordingly.

However, because of the bugs in the system, no one is supposed to have been charged yet for printing services.

“Up until this point in time, none of the student accounts have been  charged,” Petryshak said. “We wouldn’t do that until we know that it’s rock solid, working good. And that’s why the delay was there too, so until we know that it’s working perfectly, we’re not going to charge.”

The functionality of the new printing policy hinges on the new software and print stations working properly, and there are still numerous glitches that need to be worked out.

“From the last installation that was going on there’s been some issues that (RJ Young) is working through,” Petryshak said. “We didn’t want to work them through with the students using it. That’s why we backed off this semester: to give a nice, stable environment for the students as we go into the second half of the semester.”

Originally, the new software and printing policy was to be implemented in the fall of 2014, but similar problems that occured this spring delayed the system’s installment last semester.

“We’d do some testing and then we’d find some glitches and errors in it, as with any software installation, and that just delayed the installment,” Petryshak said. “So what happened was last semester we got far enough along and (RJ Young) felt they were far enough along and in a position to really roll it out and start the whole billing process this spring.”

Despite both parties’ confidence in proceeding with the installation, problems quickly presented themselves, arguably the most notable of which being a campus wide printer outage during midterms.

“We’re not sure what caused the outage, and (RJ Young) is not sure, and that’s what led us to (suspend use of UniFlow). We had the outage and we’re not sure why, and if you’re not sure why you can’t be sure of the solution,” Petryshak said. “(ITD) talked with the campus and decided we’ll back off and give (RJ Young) an opportunity to really dig into it and find out what’s causing some of those outages.”

Addressing the issues and moving forward

Petryshak clarified that while MTSU will be reverting back to the old print system for the time being, UniFlow software and compatible stations are not going to be removed from campus.

“We’re not going to take (UniFlow) out because we’re going to go back to it,” Petryshak said. “So it’s just pushed aside, and we’re going to go back to the old way of doing it for the rest of the semester.”

However, students will notice a change in some areas of campus. UniFlow stations in the library and BAS are being switched with the old print stations that are compatible with GoPrint.

“Right now the library is changing out the (print) stations, only because those stations work with (Uniflow),” Petryshak explained. “It’s just a trade, and it’ll be traded back.”

Both the James E. Walker Library and the BAS have been working over the spring break to switch over to GoPrint, the goal being to have the system ready for when students return on Monday. Petryshak is confident the problems with UniFlow will be resolved and says the university aims to have the new printing system ready for the fall of 2015.

“We’re just giving it a chance to work through some issues,” Petryshak said. “We’re working with RJ Young on it, and the idea is to really nail it down, get it smooth, get it solid, and then we’ll roll it back out.”

Follow Meagan White on Twitter at @meaganwhite328

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