Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Paper chase

From Inside Higher Ed:

On the first day of classes, the ritual has been the same for decades: Professors hand out copies of the syllabus and walk students through it. But in most courses at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh this fall, the only thing professors may hand out is a URL.

That’s because the dean of the College of Letters and Science told professors that--for financial and educational reasons--they should put their syllabuses online, and stop distributing them on the first day of classes. If students want to print out copies, they can do so themselves, says Michael Zimmerman, the dean.

Zimmerman says that the Wisconsin system’s budget "has been cut relentlessly" and that deans have no choice but to try to save every penny. Zimmerman has been dean for 14 years, and his college’s budget (about $18.5 million) is down from where it was when he started. Not a single unit in his college is receiving more money now than when he started, despite inflation generally and huge increases in costs such as scientific equipment.

"We have to set priorities," he says.

The college never figured out the exact cost of printing syllabuses, he says. But copies cost the college about 2 cents a page, nearly all of the university’s 11,000 students take at least some classes in the college, and syllabuses run from a page to 15 pages.
How much money might Dean Zimmerman be saving? If one estimates 50,000 syllabi, five pages each, the college would save $5,000 by not xeroxing. I would think that there'd be better and easier ways to save $5,000. Then again, it's possible that the Dean has chosen this highly visible cost-cutting measure to call attention to the dire budgetary situation at his school.

Link: "The End of the Paper Syllabus"

comments: 0