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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cessation and Taking Sides

I have written here about smoking policies before. As a former smoker I am ambivalent. When someone near me lights up I breathe in what I can just to remember how things used to be. On the other hand, when the mrs. comes home at 3 a.m. after a night of carousing and crawls into bed smelling of cheap bourbon, chicken wings, those orange spongy circus peanut candies, and an ash tray, my thoughts are different. (Editors note: any resemblance to real persons is done simply for dramatic effect.)

I have a proposal for our students, which my friends at the Trinitonian will love, because they want more student involvement in decision-making. I say we leave decisions about smoking in the dorms up to the residents. ASR passed a resolution this year that would ban smoking from within 50* feet of building entrances. The Safety and Health committee and Faculty Senate are considering the recommendations related to non-residential facilities. The Residential Life Office has the authority to set smoking policies for the dorms and will respect the 50 foot rule (from main entrances) as proposed. Of course, there would continue to be no smoking in designated substance-free and LEEDS-certified buildings.

ASR stopped short of banning smoking from student balconies, which our current policy permits. (Smoking is not allowed inside any campus building). ASR learned that sometimes you have to choose between two noble values: In this case health/rights of one group versus the freedoms of another. This is the learning environment the liberal arts should promote. ASR chose freedom. That is not surprising for college students. This all stemmed from growing complaints from students about those who smoke on nearby balconies. In the recent diploma debate, ASR chose the rights of the minority (by number) over another important value.

Through this post (take the poll at right) Residential Life is soliciting opinions about a new policy that would prohibit student smoking on balconies unless voted otherwise by the residents of the specific dorms. By allowing smoking on balconies now, the Res Life Office is taking sides in a way, not unlike ASR. We have apparently sided with the freedom to smoke, which again, I generally support based on my own college experience. But really, our choice should be, in this situation, about the right of the majority - the group who wants to be heard related to their rights to live smoke-free - to live in the freedom that they choose. (A survey showed recently that non-smokers would support a balcony smoking ban.) By placing the onus on the smokers to appeal to the entire in their building it gives them responsibility for making their case to smoke. That case would have to be made to their peers who live in the same building. This takes the administration/staff out of it and leaves the entire issue to the students.

The only downside to this is the perception of the Pontius Pilate approach - simply washing our hands of the issue. But the choices are to leave the policy the same (which means we have taken sides), to ban smoking on balconies (which means we are taking sides), or to let the students in each dorm decide. This will allow all students to learn what ASR did. Taking sides isn't always as easy as it looks.

*The ASR standard was 15 feet, but LEEDS policies and most ordinances target the 50 foot distance.


Anonymous said...

As a current student at Trinity, I do understand the discomfort the residents feel when I smoke on the balcony. I think a lot of people in fact do not understand that majority of the smokers want to quit smoking but can't do so because they've been addicted so long. Thus, I think instead of imposing bans and restrictions, Trinity should provide some sort of program where smokers can learn to quit smoking.

David Tuttle said...

I think it was WC Fields who said "quitting smoking is easy... I've done it hundreds of times." The people at Health and Counseling Servives and the internet can be of help for you. I chewed the stinking gum for a year because I thought I was addicted to that. I want to keep the eye on the prize here. We are not proposing the imposition of a policy, we are suggesting that the students decide. Perhaps the better way to do this would be to expect each building to determine its own policy at the beginning of the year. Then it truly shows no administrative preference. Hmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

In many ways, it seems that the university is giving the students the responsibility to make the decision while at the same time removing the university from such responsibility. So, it's a win-win situation for the university whether the students abuse or accept the responsibility. Now what I would like to know is what the university's stand would be should a group of smokers partition for certain smoking bann to be removed. Will it tell them that the decision was made by the students thus they have no obligation to make attempts to change it or will it take a stand on what the university believes in?

Anonymous said...

Was smoking ever permitted inside campus buildings in your time here? Just curious...I'm having visions of an 80s professor lighting up in front of his students :)

David Tuttle said...

Offices not classrooms. I remember Presient Calgaard smoking in my interview. Then he quit... and so did the campus.

Digital Subway said...

Considering lack of student interest/input in campus affairs, including but not limited to ASR voting, banning smoking on balconies unless voted otherwise will certainly be passed.

Instead, it should be allowing smoking on balconies unless otherwise voted. This way ResLife will know if there are people who are REALLY affected by balcony smoke and care to show it through their vote.

David Tuttle said...

I am actually leaning toward the neutral designation and having communities vote from the get go. I don't know why the onus should be on the non-smokers though Puru. They were non-smokers before the smokers were smokers. Dibs on the air is how I see it. Today.

Amit said...

Thanks for the time and energy you've put into this,


Anonymous said...

How about having a wing of a residence hall for the smokers, as for the substance abuse people, etc?

K. said...

I don't recall students' smoking in class during my years at Trinity ('73-'77), although that may have been a matter of social pressure and not rules. I did have one professor who smoked while he lectured, but he was the only one.

I'm an avid non-smoker and always have been. I had friends who smoked and I don't remember it bothering me to go to their rooms. That being said, it seems unfair to pair a non-smoker with a smoker, and I hope that Trinity has taken steps to avoid that.

As for smoking on a balcony...that didn't make an impression on me one way or another at school, but now it's the kind of thing that would irritate the hell out of me if I could smell it.

Out of curiosity, has Trinity polled parents on the subject?