By Alexandria JezinaStaff Writer
University faculty voted in approval of a South Campus smoking ban at a Faculty Senate meeting on Oct. 26. The vote, which sends the ban upwards to the Provost’s office and to the President for review and approval, may pave the way for a ban on the academic side of campus in the near future.
The proposition for a South Campus smoking ban was introduced and approved by the University Senate earlier last month, on Oct. 8.
Elizabeth Venuti, chairwoman of the University Senate’s Planning and Budget Committee, has been researching the feasibility of a smoking ban at the University for several years. In the past, the Senate has rejected proposals for an outright smoking ban across campus and voted in favor of a 20-foot buffer zone instead. Venuti stated that a ban on North Campus is still being discussed as well.
The idea among students that most faculty members do not smoke, at least not on campus, is a common perception. Sayena Gueye is a senior at the University, but is unaware if any large proportion of the University’s faculty would be affected by the ban.
“I don’t know of any of my professors that smoke. The only faculty member I have seen smoking multiple times was [Professor Scott Jarvis] at the writing center,” said Gueye.
Gueye’s perception may be part of a larger problem of imbalance in the representation of different sides that would be affected by a smarking ban. None of the faculty members who spoke during the Oct. 26 meeting identified themselves as smokers and many identified them as non-smokers, despite members within the faculty expressing interest in hearing from a smoker’s perspective.
Professor Jarvis, a Professor of Writing Studies at the University who is well recognized by students who pass between Gallon Wing and Mason Hall and often see him smoking there, was curious how the ban could impact students' lives differently than members of faculty.
“If you’re banning it campus wide on South Campus, students who reside on North Campus will still be able to smoke where they routinely do. I’m not on North Campus very often—[the ban] might be problematic in that it doesn’t affect the student population in the same way as it affects the faculty population,” Jarvis said.
Though none of the faculty members present at the Oct. 26 meeting identified themselves publicly as smokers, many nonetheless kept the opinions of smokers in mind as they questioned the impact of an expansion of the current 20-foot barrier ban.
Maureen Houck, director of Health Services at the Health and Wellness Center, said that students’ perception of their peers includes a larger population of smokers than in reality. She said this idea persists because the same students or faculty are repeatedly seen smoking in popular smoking areas. Houck advised her peers to politely speak to smokers individually instead of enforcing a campus-wide ban.
“When I see a student smoking, I ask them to move—we all need to do that,” said Houck. “This is a community… I just think that dividing a campus by ‘smoking’ and ‘not smoking’ is not the way to go.”
Drama professor Richard Curtiss inquired what penalties would be applied if a student or faculty member were caught smoking under the theoretical ban.
“I’ve been here 16 years, and I don’t even know if we can enforce a parking ban,” said Curtiss, referring to conflicts between residential, commuter and faculty parking spots on the academic side of campus. “I’m in the drama department, and a lot of drama people smoke… I know there’s faculty in my department that would ignore [a smoking ban].”
While members of the University community continue to smoke on South Campus for the time being, there seems to be little public uproar or response from smokers to display protest against the proposition.
For both Houck and Jarvis, the root issue in applying a smoking ban is the fact that, for smokers, even the decision to smoke is not always wholly voluntary.
“If accomodations can be made for [smokers], especially out of the wind and the wet and the cold, that is at least somewhat fairer,” said Jarvis.
Additional reporting by Ben Suazo.