April 10, 2001

Campus Life Contemplates New Dorm Smoking Policy

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Responding to health and safety concerns of students and families of students who live on campus, Campus Life is discussing the possibility of adopting a new smoking policy that would ban smoking in or around residence halls.

The current smoking policy, which does not apply to University-owned cooperative residences or Greek houses, prohibits smoking in all common areas. Smoking in individual rooms is at the discretion of the occupants, so long as the doors are kept closed and smoke does not permeate the hallway.

To solicit feedback from residents about the current policy, Campus Life contacted the Residence Hall Association, a student government for on-campus residents, which distributed a campus-wide survey.

“We felt the issue was a worthwhile cause and a great way to show that RHA can be an effective voice of the students in residence halls,” said RHA President Jeremy Weinberg ’03. “It was a great opportunity to let the students influence the policy and a reflection of the fact that Campus Life wants to know what students think.”

The survey was distributed to approximately 5,500 students earlier this semester and RHA received 1,450 completed responses.

In its official report to Campus Life, RHA reported that 90.1 percent of respondents were non-smokers and 69.4 percent of respondents had lived in a residence hall for less than two full semesters. The survey showed that 54 percent of respondents wanted smoking banned in all Cornell University residence halls.

“We were very pleased with the number of students that responded,” said RHA Vice President Michael Inwald ’03. “It gave us a very good sense of what students feel. We hope that this information will be used to make any final decisions on the policy.”

After collaboration with the general members board of RHA, the student members took a stance in the report to Campus Life. According to Weinberg, RHA viewed the data as evidence that the student body desires to ban smoking in some, but not all, residence halls.

This issue of creating a new policy has been a prevalent topic at other major universities, according to Don King, associate director of Campus Life. Brown University, for example, recently banned smoking from all campus residence halls and eating facilities.

“This conversation has been taking place for more than a year now,” King said. “There are a couple of reasons for the discussion, including obvious health reasons, the residual effects that smoking leaves on the areas frequented by smokers, and fire safety.”

According to King, the creation of a smoke-free policy is under very serious consideration and has been for quite some time.

“This is all a very complex topic,” he added. “Aside from the issue of the policy inside the residence halls, we are considering if there would be a need to create buffer zones around the residence halls. Smoking around a residence hall can have some of these same effects. Therefore, a change in the policy would affect both staff and students.”

If Campus Life decides to adopt a smoke-free policy, another possibility is that the new policy would not affect West Campus residence halls immediately since students have already signed housing contracts for next year, according to King. Program houses, which also contain a mix of freshmen and upperclassmen would also still have control over their own policies.

With discussions of the policy continuing and a decision pending, King reflected on the contribution of various groups on campus.

“RHA’s work has been very important and informative. It gave us a real gauge of what students think and also a better idea of the number of students who actually smoke. We’ve also spoken with Gannett Health Center and the Student Assembly, all of which have given us vital information and more direction,” King said.

Although the final decision will come from the University, students stressed the importance of their opportunity to influence the policy.

“We were very pleased that Campus Life gave us the opportunity to get involved in this issue,” Inwald said. “We believe this is a great indication of Campus Life’s respect for our opinion and work.”

Archived article by Aylin Tanyeri