Students voice opinion about paper waste through art

By Jessi Haish

The MLK Commons benches were covered in sheets of paper after two students decided to voice their opinions through an art project.

Junior ceramics major Eric Oslos and junior sculpture major Jessica Benson spent more than 20 hours scrounging recycling bins near campus computer labs and adhering sheets of paper to the steps for a project for their site-specific installation class. They installed the papers in the MLK Commons Sunday night; the papers had been removed by Monday afternoon. Benson and Oslos only collected the Z-ID cover pages that come with print jobs.

“We would not only be making a statement about the magnitude of waste these papers were creating, but also gain a free and plentiful material for our project,” Benson said in an email.

Oslos and Benson went to on-campus labs for their materials, collecting about 2,300 sheets. They collected papers from only one day so they could show how much paper was printed in that span.

Benson said the project speaks to the waste of the paper, ink and energy, as each are used in printing the cover pages, and the project also represented something on a deeper level.

“These papers both literally and metaphorically represent the students at NIU,” Benson said in an email. “Whether one chooses to interpret this metaphor as a statement against conformity or a positive message about teamwork and unity we have decided to leave up to the viewer.”

Charles Schumann Jr., IT Manager for NIU ITS Customer Support Services, said not printing the pages would not change much. He said he did not know how much ink was used throughout the year in printing the cover pages.

“It’s not that much,” Schumann said. “It only prints out two or three lines per page.”

He said the amount of paper and ink used by the cover pages was “negligible.” He said the cover sheets help students identify which print job belongs to them and offer “a modicum of privacy.” Schumann said the cover sheets would be gone in three years as NIU transitions to a new printing system in the computer labs.

The cover sheets do not add to a student’s printing limit; if removed, the printing limit for students would not go up, Schumann said.

Austin Quick, Student Association Senate speaker, said other students have opinions about the general printing procedures on campus. Quick said one of the benefits of attending NIU was the free printing in labs and the printing limit, new this semester, is a burden. Quick said that most students did not comment on the actual cover pages, but the printing quota itself.

Benson said the only justification she has received about the cover pages is that they help organize print jobs between multiple students in the labs.

“When one is aware of the vast waste of paper, time and energy these printouts pose, this justification pales in comparison,” Benson said in an email.