Editorial - Taking the next step

Moving writing seminars paperless is a good first step, but there are many more that can follow

The Daily Pennsylvanian
September 25, 2009

In line with Penn's increasing focus on sustainability and environmental consciousness, the Critical Writing Program - which administers the mandatory writing seminar - has thoughtfully decided to focus efforts on decreasing paper usage in these classes.

Their efforts are commendable. The end-of-seminar portfolios, a class requirement, often run dozens of pages, and the decision to move to digital submissions will save almost 30 trees per year. Similarly, requiring students to bring laptops to class - so they don't need to print out handouts posted online - will cut down on paper waste.

However - especially University-wide - there is much more that can be done, and the ways students and professors fundamentally approach education stand in the way of a truly "paperless" education. Most classes, including writing seminars, require students to turn papers in weekly, and professors and peer reviews rely on paper copies to give feedback. Students still overwhelmingly prefer reading physical copies of books and handouts, and few alternatives are strongly encouraged.

While the writing program's strides are both noted and ahead of the curve, Penn can and should do better at becoming a digitized campus.