The main campus of Georgetown University took another step toward becoming smoke-free, as the Georgetown University Student Association senate voted 26-0 Sunday to hold a studentwide referendum in December on the issue.
The referendum, to be held Dec. 1, will present students with three options: in support of a smoke-free campus, against a smoke-free campus and an entry for those undecided.
The university is planning to create a tobacco-free campus by the 2017-18 academic year, according to Associate Vice President for Benefits and Chief Benefits Officer Charles DeSantis. GUSA and the university sponsored a Hoya Roundtable discussion last night to allow students to discuss a potential smoking ban with administrators.
The current main campus policy prohibits smoking in all indoor locations, including all residence hall rooms, apartments and townhouses. Those who choose to smoke must do so in designated outdoor areas and are responsible for proper disposal of cigarette ashes and butts.
Both GUSA President Enushe Khan (MSB ’17) and GUSA Vice President Chris Fisk (COL ’17) advocated adding the third option to the referendum for students to identify as “undecided.”
Fisk said the referendum will enable GUSA to more effectively advocate for students as the university works to transition to a tobacco-free campus.
“[Enushe and my] job is to listen and advocate for whatever the student body wants and that’s why we feel so passionate about the fact that there should be a referendum on this issue so we know how to advocate best for the students,” Fisk said.
The senate voted in favor of providing a third option on a 19-to-seven decision, and approved the undecided response instead of a “no preference” answer on a 15-13 vote. One senator abstained from the vote entirely,
Hosted in the Healey Family Student Center’s Social Room, Monday’s roundtable discussion featured a presentation from DeSantis and included several senators from the previous night’s vote.
DeSantis said he is advocating for a smoke-free campus to help students who do not smoke but may be affected by secondhand smoking.
“Tobacco-related death is the most preventable cause of mortality with more than 400,000 Americans who are affected of it each year,” DeSantis said. “Unlike other health issues, smoking can affect those who choose not to smoke and it is my passion, my job at the end of the day to care for this community’s well-being. I’ve been trying for eight years to do this. This is a big deal.”
The university is currently undecided on where specifically smoking would be prohibited, according to DeSantis.
“As of right now, based on maps that we have come up with, the only plausible solutions for [smoking zones] that seem to not get in the 25-feet zone of indoor spaces are Healy Lawn and Cooper Field,” DeSantis said.
GUSA Senator Scott Lowder (COL ’17) pointed to negative experiences with secondhand smoke while walking to Lauinger Library.
“I have asthma and I do not always make note to carry my inhaler. I shouldn’t have to put myself and others should not have to put themselves at risk for the actions that those who do choose to smoke make in spite of knowing how their decision will affect those who choose not to smoke,” Lowder said.
DeSantis said the process to become a smoke-free campus should be run by the student body.
“We still have many decisions to talk about without constituents. There are many people to consider and I am meeting with everyone in a serious manner to hear decisions of those in favor and those not. Our job is to make sure we do this in the right way,” DeSantis said.