To the Daily:
Much has been said about the smoking ban, but I feel in the hue and cry on both sides a few key issues have been glossed over or ignored. Several administrators, most recently Simone Taylor, have gone to great lengths to mention the depth and breadth of student input on the issue (The smoking ban initiative includes student body’s imput, 4/13/2010). And administrators have made a great effort to reach out to students and the wider University community — after the decision was made.
People around campus are upset about the ban because there was no opportunity for input while the initial decision on the policy was being made. The uproar is about the process, not necessarily the decision. And now administrators ‘reach out’ to talk to the community — but only about how to implement the policy, not whether the policy makes any sense for this campus. This isn’t a conversation, it’s a whitewash.
Dr. Robert Winfield, the University’s chief health officer, helpfully lets us know that the decision to make all three campuses smoke free was due to smokers gathering outside residence hall entrances (Campus-wide smoking ban reflects what students want, 03/07/2010). But isn’t that like using a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito?
This is where an honest effort to engage the community would have been helpful. There were so many other options that could have been pursued, rather than the ‘nuclear option’ that was taken. Options like establishing smoking zones, as they do at the hospital. Options like modifying the language of the residential hall contract to require (instead of request, as it says now) smokers to stay away from the building. Options like better enforcement.
The real shame of the smoking ban is that it’s remarkably myopic. Sure, it’s relatively easy to cross onto city property from Central Campus to smoke. But if you drove your son from Traverse City to the University Hospital to get the best medical care no matter the cost, and find out your son has inoperable cancer, what kind of kick in the teeth is it to say ‘Sorry sir, there is no smoking allowed on campus’?
What about the international students (and, frequently, their parents) who live in Northwood Community Apartments? Where would people go to get off-campus if they are at Pierpont Commons on North Campus?
I am a non-smoker, for what it’s worth. But in the final analysis, this is about University President Mary Sue Coleman deciding, without input, that the University can go beyond state or federal law to decide for adults what they can or cannot do. Hypothetically, she could decide that undergraduates shouldn’t be allowed to consume alcohol. But that would be a difference of degree, not of kind — and that’s the real problem with the campus-wide smoking ban.