Last week, the Residence Hall Association narrowly defeated a proposal advocating the ban of smoking in the residence halls, the first parry in a debate over the status of smoking in the residence halls. While smokers are a minority amongst students at the University, their right to personal freedom within their place of residence should be a matter of concern for and defended by all students.

University students should be allowed to exercise their right to live as they please within the confines of their residences. Whether a student”s choice involves lighting up a cigarette or living in a smoke-free environment, the important thing is the freedom of students to do as they please.

Residents of residence halls should be no exception. Currently the University supports this proposition in that it honors requests of students to be placed within smoke-free halls and attempts to accommodate smokers in smoke-permitted rooms. The University”s policy is the best solution, as it accommodates the rights of both smokers and nonsmokers alike. This is especially important for freshman, whose housing alternatives are limited in a town where apartment contracts for the year are settled a full ten months before they arrive.

The proposal brought to the RHA members on Thursday argues that smoking is an “irrational” practice and that the existence of resident smokers in residence halls “reduces our right to claim academic and intellectual excellence.” It further asserts that concerns for the health of non-smoking students justify a ban of smoking in the dorms.

The claim that smoking is directly in opposition with excellence in higher education has no merit how exactly does smoking negate academia? Even if a conflict were somehow proven, the University is nonetheless paid to provide students with the opportunity for a good higher education, not dictate a lifestyle, whether or not it is conducive to “rational or progressive thought.”

The second idea behind the proposal justly argues that non-smokers should not be subject to the ill effects of second hand smoke. University policy already remedies this issue, by supporting the decision of people to live in a smoke free environment not only through room choice but also by segregating smoking rooms to specific halls and the restriction of smoking to smoking-permitted rooms and outside the building.

While the proposals of the RHA are not binding, it is important that students back a University policy which has successfully accommodated the personal freedom of all students that have been forced or have chosen to live in the residence halls, by telling their representatives to RHA to continue to block any future proposals to ban smoking in the residence halls.

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