Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

GU Smoking Policy Long Time in the Making

With the recent announcement of Georgetown’s new smoking policy, there has been confusion over how the decision was made and the involvement of student opinion. The Interhall Executive Board would like to explain Interhall’s role in this campus-policy change and to respond to criticisms such as those expressed in Christian Suciu’s letter to the editor [“Smoking Ban Does Not Solve Problem,” THE HOYA, March 23, 2004, p.2].

In his letter, Suciu charges that, “With nary a dissenting voice raised, Interhall quietly approved a total smoking ban under cover of spring break.” In actuality, Interhall’s involvement in the smoking policy debate began over two years ago. In February of 2002, before Suciu was a student on the Hilltop, Interhall members distributed and collected a survey in Red Square. The purpose of such a survey, as expressed by then-Vice President for External Affairs James Wawrzyniak, [“GU May Alter Residence Hall Smoking Policy,” THE HOYA, Feb. 5, 2002, p.1] was to “get some information and see if this is something we want to pursue.”

In the end, Interhall felt that the survey, which was administered only to students passing by Red Square as opposed to one administered to all students, was an insufficient sample of the Georgetown population for Interhall to take action. Without a solid feel of the campus pulse, Interhall did not want to pursue action on behalf of the on-campus undergraduate population.

Interhall next decided to a look at a change in the policy in the fall of 2003. This time, however, the executive board and general assembly wanted to conduct an exhaustive survey and maximize the number of responses. To this end, a comprehensive survey was designed and sent to every hall director and area co-coordinator for further distribution to RAs and students. This action, unlike Suciu’s claims, was far from private, receiving press coverage from both THE HOYA and the Voice.

The results of the survey were overwhelming. Over 1,250 students responded; not only a statistically significant number, but an amazing figure when one considers that the polled population was comprised of busy, time-crunched Georgetown students. The results included members of all classes, smokers and non-smokers alike. The results were clear: an overwhelming majority of on-campus students supported the move to a completely smoke-free policy, including apartments and entryways.

However, despite Suciu’s insinuation, Interhall did not then proceed to formulate our position on the policy “under the cover of spring break.” Rather, a two-hour meeting was held by the Interhall general assembly with the director of housing services, Shirley Menendez. After two hours of discussion, debate and consideration of all options, the general assembly decided to approve what has become the new policy. In true democratic fashion, the opinions of all members present, both those elected by their fellow students and community councils and those appointed to the general assembly by the executive board, had the opportunity to express their opinions and ideas. There was a wide range of views and stances on the issue, but in the end, the assembly voted overwhelmingly to endorse student opinion as expressed in the survey.

This, however, was not the final student input. Interhall’s recommendation went to the housing advisory board, a group of administrators and students, who then considered the issue for themselves. They also voted to endorse the new change, and their opinion was forwarded to both facilities and housing. By the time the final decision was announced by Karen Frank, vice president of facilities and student housing, around the time of spring break, student involvement in this issue – despite what Suciu and others may contend – has been ongoing for over two years.

Joshua Waller (COL ’04) serves as president of the Georgetown University Inter Residence Hall Council executive board, Abbony Holmes (COL ’06) serves as vice president of leadership and development, Scott Cheney-Peters (COL ’06) serves as vice president of community development, Matt Wolfe (MSB ’05) serves as vice president of external affairs, Jon Deutsch (COL ’07) serves as vice president of internal affairs and Megan Vetula (COL ’07) serves as executive assistant.

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