OP-ED: Forget About Mental Health, I Just Want Free Printing

Credit: Joy Lee

These days, all people at Penn seem to talk about is mental health. Mental health this, mental health that. From the opinion pages of the DP to the meme pages of FB, students are complaining about the insufficient attention and funding given to mental health services on campus. This, it seems many would say, is one of Gutmann and her team's greatest failings. But aren't we all forgetting about something?

As a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, I'm often forced to print things out. Essays, study guides, pages just covered in black ink to use to make a cool paper airplane, you name it; I have to print a lot, and I have to pay for it all myself. For all the UA campaign promises and annoyed freshmen, one of Penn's most glaring flaws has been forgotten. Not enough people get free printing.

Yes, CAPS is probably an insufficient resource for the Penn community. And yes, the nature of Penn is stressful and competitive, which takes a serious mental toll on all those attending, whether they admit it or not. But the printing resources are also insufficient, and the nature of Penn is a paper-centric one which takes a serious toll on my wallet every time I print.

There are many things on campus which are incredibly difficult to improve, and I'll readily admit that. We cannot easily fix the social hierarchy at Penn, nor can we easily fix the pre-professional nature of the school. Similarly, it is not easy to allocate a portion of Penn's $10+ billion endowment to mental health resources in order to make the school a more comfortable and safe place for its students, who pay tens of thousands of dollars each year to attend.

Printing, however, is an easy fix. Just let me print anything I want, whenever I want, for free. We should all be able to just swipe our cards and print. I'm trying to print out an essay? Easy, I just swipe and print, free of charge. You want to print out an entire textbook you illegally downloaded as a PDF online? No problem. You want to print out 3,000 pages worth of Scientology indoctrination materials for you and your family? As long as you have a PennCard, you're good to go.

A key difference between free printing and mental health resources is that one is easy to abuse, and the other is not.

If Penn students had access to free and comprehensive mental health resources, they would take advantage of the system. They would take up more of the resources than they are entitled to, becoming more mentally healthy than is necessary. They would take mental health intended for Penn students and give it to their friends, family, and acquaintances. Penn students cannot be trusted with mental health resources, but free printing is different. It's incredibly difficult to abuse, and students wouldn't want to abuse it anyway.

The U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, under the First Amendment, and the framers of the Constitution were referring to printing presses — early versions of the laser and inkjet printers with which we are so familiar today. It could certainly be argued that it is unconstitutional of Penn to deny us free printing, as "free printing" and "freedom of the press" are pretty much the same thing.

I know that the administration does not mean to spit in the face of the Constitution. Scalia is turning in his grave right now, crying out, in a zombie voice, "Give everyone unlimited free printing. I love the Constitution, and know it intimately. Amy Gutmann, give the people what they want." Whether you agree or disagree with Scalia's views, you can't deny him this point. 

In writing this article, I don't mean to make light of mental health on campus. I merely intend to highlight what is clearly a more important topic, which seems to have fallen out of the spotlight. I'm not asking much. I'm not asking for the administration to do all that it can to create an environment most conducive to mental health and efficient education. All I'm asking for is unlimited free printing.