SINC sites across the Stony Brook campus experienced a printing outage on Monday, Aug. 24 and Tuesday, Aug. 25 that left many students frustrated, confused, and unprepared for class.
The outage occurred because the “Print from Anywhere” system, Pharos, was overloaded by large quantities of data that it was told to print, according to Diana Voss, the manager of Instructional Computing Support for Teaching, Learning and Technology, or TLT.
“Students began printing large documents such as lecture notes and entire textbooks, and the volume was too much for the virtual server to handle,” Voss said.
By 8 a.m on Aug. 26, changes were made to the server so that the SINC Sites could handle the workload.
But can a campuswide printing outage happen again? It is possible, Voss said.
“If everyone decides to print out their textbook like they were doing, like a lot of students were doing, it could happen again,” Voss said.
The TLT department did not send a mass email to students and faculty about the Tuesday Pharos glitch because it was an outage that lasted less than 24 hours and most students were only printing syllabi, Voss said.
“We just use the status page, because if it had been the week of midterms, something where a lot of people were trying to do big work then I probably would have made the decision to notify all faculty and students,” Voss said. “When we looked to what was trying to be printed, [it] was syllabus. So it wasn’t anything where the students were going to get in trouble for not submitting it in time.”
However, writing professor Joseph Labriola said he had his first assignment, a one-page memoir, due on Wednesday, and he had to move the due date because of the printing issue.
“I didn’t know that the printing was out until students emailed me actually, and then I wound up emailing the class and changing [the due date],” Labriola said. “It is really useful for me to know if there are issues like that … because for some classes we could plan on going over [a printed sheet] in class and [it] might be a big part of my lesson plan.”
Freshman business management major Anastasia Koshik said professors should always be contacted by TLT when the printing is down so the students do not get in trouble for something out of their hands.
“When it’s down, maybe the professors should be alerted because sometimes students won’t be able to print just because the system is down,” Koshik said. “Maybe [the professors] can be lenient about it and give [students] an extension to print something.”
Labriola said he finds this printing issue an unavoidable inconvenience to his students especially when his students don’t know what to do.
“I have so many students who are brand new, they’re freshmen and they barely know where to go to get food let alone to know what to do if the printer is not working on them,” Labriola said.
When Pharos is down there are directions on the status page as to where students can directly print from, Voss said.
“Even when the Pharos stopped working, you could directly print from the four stations in the library, from engineering and from the union,” Voss said.
Sophomore atmospheric and oceanic science major Xinyao Lin said the direct printing method caused inconvenient long lines and mass confusion as to what was going on. She said she would have felt a lot better if she was given more information.
“I had to print out my syllabus … but because of the line at the library, I didn’t get to print,” Lin said. “[TLT] has to tell us what’s happening and when it will be working again because the signs just said ‘All machines are not working all over campus.’ They didn’t say when it would be fine or how they were going to fix it.”
In Labriola’s opinion, students might be better off bringing their own printers so they can avoid these issues when they come up.
“I would say it is probably better if you are able to certainly have your own printer because again you don’t know when these issues [will] come up,” Labriola said.
Labriola said it is very important that if students do not have their own printers and these printing issues reoccur, that they email their professors immediately to inform them of the situation.
“It’s sort of like a numbers game,” Labriola said. “If every student figures ‘Oh, well somebody will email the professor and it will all be taken care of,’ and nobody does, then I could have came in and just been like ‘OK, [this] thing is due.’ Communication is key.”
Communication is often what is lacking when the TLT department is trying to identify the problems, Voss said.
“We can’t fix it if we don’t know about it,” Voss said.
One of the tools students could use if they ever have a technical problem with the SINC sites, Blackboard or anything else is the website service.stonybrook.edu, Voss said.
“Login with your NetID and tell IT [Information Technology] what’s wrong,” Voss said. “If there are more reports about one thing then we know that that one thing needs to be investigated and fixed as soon as possible.”