Georgetown University must follow through on promises it makes — especially when those promises are related to the health of its students and university community at large.
Over the last two years, Georgetown has planned to enforce a tobacco-free policy on its main campus: It aimed to become tobacco- and smoke-free in 2018, according to the university’s website. In fall 2016, the student body supported the tobacco-free movement, voting in favor of a referendum supporting a tobacco-free campus.
To keep students healthy, make good on its own promise and uphold students’ interests, Georgetown must follow through on its pledge to become a tobacco-free campus by next year.
Not only has the university so far failed to meet its goal of making the campus tobacco-free, but it has made little progress toward it: Georgetown has not made smoking areas clear, advertised signage about the tobacco-free initiative or extended its policy beyond theoretical practice.
Eliminating tobacco from campus requires a cultural change, and the university must lead this charge by signalling the imminent reforms it seeks to bring to campus.
Georgetown’s other campuses have managed to transition to tobacco-free over the last decade; the university’s website specifically mentions the Georgetown University Law Center and the Georgetown University Medical Center as models for the main campus to follow.
To bring the same reform to its undergraduate population and protect the on-campus community from the potentially life-threatening effects of secondhand smoke, Georgetown — which was not available for comment on this editorial — simply needs to begin taking its own stated policies more seriously.
Georgetown also needs to arrive at one clear policy, as confusion between differing statements is counterproductive to an effective solution.
While one page on Georgetown’s website claims to seek a completely smoke- and tobacco-free campus, the Division of Student Affairs calls for “an environment as close to smoke-free as practically possible.”
This obvious contradiction and confusion in goals is unnecessary: As the university itself acknowledges, Washington, D.C. law prohibits smoking indoors, in any location that might block the entrance of a building or in any place that would “cause others to be exposed to second-hand smoke.”
As any student who has walked by the exterior of Lauinger Library can attest, this law is not enforced on Georgetown’s campus. The university needs to follow through on its promise and make main campus tobacco-free.
Along with the move toward a cleaner and healthier campus, Georgetown should seek to accommodate students and other community members who are trying to quit smoking. The university’s current efforts in helping students who want assistance, while well-intentioned, are woefully inadequate.
The singular page on Georgetown’s website dedicated to helping students “quit your tobacco habit” features a list of national organizations such as the American Cancer Society and UnitedHealthcare, but offers little by way of on-campus resources. As Georgetown transitions to tobacco-free, it must actively support students suffering from addiction as well.
This transition does not have to be extraordinarily difficult to manage, and the process does not need to take as long as it has.
Georgetown’s main campus can simply replicate the Law Center’s policy, which specifies a ban on smoking within 25 feet of any Georgetown building. Under the policy, first-time offenders receive a verbal warning from campus security, along with a printed map of the campus’s designated smoking areas; second violations result in a written warning; and subsequent violations are handled by disciplinary committees.
Georgetown is doing undergraduate students a disservice by ignoring its own policies. Banning tobacco on campus — a measure supported by students and the university alike — is a move toward a healthier student body and a policy Georgetown should have no difficulty enforcing.
The university is, without a clear reason, deferring its own commitment to students’ health. The process of cleaning up campus has begun, but Georgetown has to take students’ interests more seriously and follow through.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the Opinion Editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.