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

Smoking Ban Considered

Andreas Jeninga/The Hoya A survey by Interhall has prompted University Facilities and Student Housing to consider a smoking ban for residence halls and apartments that would take effect as early as this summer.

Georgetown University could ban smoking inside all on-campus residences as early as this summer after the Housing Advisory Council met Wednesday to consider an Interhall proposal.

Interhall voted to present a proposal to the council that seeks to ban smoking both in and outside of all on-campus residences at their Jan. 13 meeting. A proposed ban on smoking near entrances to campus buildings remains less likely to be enacted due to questions regarding enforcement.

“It was agreed that smoking should not be permitted inside residences. As far as banning it within so many feet of entrances, things were a little more in the gray area,” GUSA President Brian Morgenstern (COL ’05) said. “There is an idea on the table, however, to move ash urns a little farther away from doors to encourage smokers to spread out.”

The policy received unanimous support from the council, Ed Shelleby (COL ’04), Housing Advisory Council chair, said, and if passed, townhouses would remain the only university housing where students could smoke.

The proposal recommended implementation for the Fall 2004 semester. University officials could enforce the policy earlier, however, beginning at the start of the summer semester, if deemed appropriate.

“There was a lot of support from GUSA, Interhall, members of residence life and other students,” Karen Frank, vice president for facilities and student housing, said. “Now we will be talking about how to implement this as policy. We’d like to implement it for the summer and then get it into the occupancy agreements for the fall so that everyone is clear about this new policy.”

Interhall made the proposal after conducting a survey last fall that showed the majority of students were against smoking within residences and apartment complexes, according to Matthew Wolfe (MSB ’05), Interhall vice president for external affairs.

Frank praised Interhall’s “rigorous” work on the survey, adding that the policy proposal had been “completely student-initiated.”

Wolfe said the survey showed from the 1,252 responses that approximately 90 percent of those surveyed were non-smokers.

Of the respondents, 93 percent said they favored at least some type of smoke-free residence halls, while nearly 60 percent advocated completely smoke-free residences. Likewise, 86 percent of respondents supported at least some smoke-free apartment complexes, the majority again favoring a complete smoking ban.

The survey also found that 58 percent of students would prefer a smoking ban within a given distance from an entrance to all public buildings.

“There has been a need to conduct a survey to determine what students currently think about smoking in the residence halls,” Todd Harris, associate director of student life, said. “The [on-campus smoking] policy has not changed in the past several years.”

Despite the results from Interhall’s survey, some students still oppose the measure.

“I don’t smoke in my room because I don’t like the smell and I don’t want to make my roommate have to put up with it, but what difference does it make how far away I am from my building when I smoke outside? It’s not like when you enter a building you can smell the cigarettes from outside,” Fernanda Pedreira (SFS ’07) said.

Scott Cheney-Peters (COL ’06), Interhall’s vice president of community development, said that opponents remained concerned about the perceptions of the policy.

“Most opposition to the policy change centered around not wanting to give smokers the feeling they were being punished,” Cheney-Peters said.

Wolfe said resident assistants and hall directors would enforce the policy in residence halls while area coordinators would enforce the policy in apartments.

After looking into those issues and considering enforcement, a final decision will be made, according to Frank.

Wolfe felt that his Wednesday presentation to the housing advisory council had been successful. “We basically just discussed the proposal and all the various implications it might have and the council as a whole was in support of it, so it looks like it’s going to become policy,” Wolfe said. Wolfe said his committee made sure that the justifications for doing this change were in fact necessary and that it would provide a good benefit to the general student body.

Currently, smoking is allowed in residence halls and apartments if both roommates consent to smoking. There are currently no rules about smoking in front of residence entrances.

“It was when the District of Columbia passed a law about smoking indoors that changes were made in campus housing,” Frank said. “It’s always been an issue among roommates, however. Even though we ask whether students smoke on the housing application, sometimes the question is answered with the parents looking over the shoulder, so we don’t always get an honest answer.”

Several universities have an on-campus housing smoking ban in effect, and Shelleby said this added weight to the Interhall proposal.

“There were no particularly compelling reasons not to approve of this policy because it only affects a small minority of people,” he said. “And most universities have made a move in a total smoking prohibition.”

While Interhall’s vote on the initiative was nearly unanimous, the group was slightly split on the vote regarding the inclusion of public entryways in the smoking ban. This part of the resolution still passed, however, by a 10-6 vote, according to egan Vetula (COL ’07), Interhall’s executive assistant.

Anthony Marchese (COL ’06), who was present at the early January meeting, said that several members of the council were pushing for a more gradual change or a further look into how big of a problem smoking is for non-smokers. Marchese added that some members thought a compromise would be in order.

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