The Commissioner of Sustainability is pushing for a mandatory contract for City College teachers to restrict the amount of paper they give to students.
“I’ve noticed some really unethical uses of paper — there’s a lot of waste,” Commissioner of Sustainability Alexi Som said, adding that teachers are printing an excessive amount of materials that students don’t need.
The proposed contract is part of a broader effort to reduce waste outlined in the college’s District Sustainability Plan, which states the college intends to achieve net-zero waste and cut drinking water usage in half across all three of its campuses by 2025.
Although the language of the contract is tentative, there are two provisions teachers would have to agree to in the contract’s present form (page 56 of the senate agenda):
“1. Teachers are encouraged to only be printing and distributing tests, quizzes and in class writing activities, all other information that is not needed that day in class should be posted on canvas.
2. Teachers will be active on the student portal by posting all other handouts on pdf files or google docs for the students at home use.”
The background information included in the contract states that last year the college spent over $40,000 on paper and the Bookstore bought about 5,000 reams of paper. It adds that 40 reams of paper contain the same amount of material as a 45-foot tree, meaning that in effect, the college cut down about 125 trees of that height to use the paper the Bookstore bought alone.
While explaining the contract to the Student Senate Friday, Som said that teachers who use an excessive amount of paper usually don’t utilize the online instructional support tool Canvas, where teachers can upload all their class materials online and reduce the amount of paper they need to print. He added that the reason why they don’t use it is often because they don’t know how to, and he would like to see more teachers learn how to use it.
Senator Lucas Perry agreed that more teachers should learn how to use Canvas, and argued that educating teachers on how to use it should be the focus of efforts to reduce paper usage instead of simply imposing restrictions via the contract.
Perry also expressed concern that students who learn easier by using paper would be negatively impacted by the restrictions.
“I can see it being beneficial for sustainability, but also harmful for students who do better with handouts, like visual learners,” Perry said.
“I definitely think there could be a reduction in the amount of paper used, but I also have questions about the implementation of this,” he added, stating that he did not understand what the limits were on the amount of paper allowed to be used.
The contract’s current language does not have limits on the amount of paper allowed to be used. As it is written, it is also unlikely to fulfill its intention to limit teachers to print only “tests, quizzes and in class writing activities,” as it includes the non-binding language “Teachers are encouraged to…,” instead of binding language such as “Teachers must…”
Som said when he proposed the contract to the Sustainability Workgroup, it recommended he form a student-led group to educate teachers about paper waste during campus-wide teacher workshops that the college regularly holds, giving him the option of pursuing this to advocate for reducing paper use if the contract fails to become college policy.
Moving forward, Som intends to discuss the contract with faculty members during the Academic Senate’s next meeting at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14 in Business-Communication Center Room 214.