College catalog moves online, saves resources

Josh Goodman

Registration edged closer to paperless this year, as all returning students were migrated to electronic versions of the catalog of the college. In years past, the college had provided each returning student with a hard copy; now only incoming students receive one.

The switch was an effort to save money and be more environmentally friendly.

“This semester we all got this directive to cut our budget by 5 percent,” said Registrar Ron Urban. “The decision was made based on that 5 percent cut to eliminate printing costs for the catalog. The other explanation that’s offered is: I think people genuinely believe this, though I see some cynicism about this: we’re becoming increasingly green.   We’re trying to save paper. Fifteen hundred copies of this [is] a small forest, basically.”

In addition, the switch puts Whitman on par with other institutions.

“When you say you’re still printing [the catalog], they kind of look down their noses on you,” said Urban.   “Whitman’s kind of following in the wake of others, we’re not on the cutting edge of this.”

While many students agreed with these reasons, that didn’t keep some from feeling inconvenienced.

“It’s a good idea to cut down on hard copies to save resources, but… there has to be a balance,” said first-year Chapman Strong.   “The lack of hard copies this semester was ridiculous. I found myself trying to steal my prospie’s hard copies when they weren’t looking.”

“Copies should be offered for students who want them, rather than distributed to everyone,” said first-year Brett Konen. “At the very least, every section should get a few to share.”

Hard copies were available through SAs and the Academic Resource Center, though not very many students took advantage of those opportunities.

“We received two boxes and we haven’t even cracked the second box,” said Interim Academic Resources Program Coordinator Colleen McKinney. “There are about 50 in each box and we’ve given away about 20.”

This may be because the e-mail announcing the change said catalogs at the Academic Resource Center were “for students who do not have web access.” All Whitman students have access to the internet in the library and academic buildings, and it appears that hard copies were simply given to students who wanted them.

Many students, despite liking their hard copy, were fine with the electronic version.

“It makes it harder to compare classes, but it’s not the end of the world,” said sophomore Lissa Erickson.   “I think I use my copy more to check distribution and major requirements, but as long as you get a copy of the catalog your freshman year then you don’t need to get a new one every other year.”

“Even though it would make my life a lot easier to have a hard copy of the course catalog, I think that only offering the electronic copy is a great way to save paper and it makes a lot of sense,” said sophomore Gabriella Brandt.   “This is kind of a moral struggle for me.”

Students had many ideas for next year, ranging from having copies on reserve in the library to offering a Word document version so that it would still be possible to highlight courses.

While nearly every student has an opinion, the debate over the switch hasn’t been very passionate.

“I thought it would be much more controversial,” said Urban.   “I thought the sustainability folks would say ‘Yes, right on!’ and the folks like me who love a security blanket would burn the college in effigy, and so far none of that.”

Meanwhile, no students replied to the initial announcement.

“I didn’t really receive any comments about why we didn’t have [a hard copy],” said Assistant to the Dean of Students Donna Cummins, who sent out the announcement written by Provost Lori Bettison-Varga.

“This will be a year where we’ll find out what happens,” Cummins said.   “If there’s an overwhelming demand, we’ll mitigate whatever problems there were.”

With or without a hard copy of the catalog, returning students successfully wrapped up pre-registration last Thursday night.