The Residence Hall Association approved a proposal Thursday to ban smoking in all residence halls except for the Northwood Family Housing on North Campus. This proposal was one of two regarding smoking up for vote that night: The first would have limited the rooms permitting smoking to the highest floors of certain residence halls, while the second proposal bans all smoking in residence halls.
A majority voted down the first proposal in favor of the second. These proposals have been hotly debated by the RHA since they did not pass the two-thirds vote last year. Due to a change in RHA policy, this proposal was allowed to pass simply with a majority vote. The University Housing Department is currently considering RHA’s proposals to aid its decision to ban all smoking rooms in residence halls. If the University were to approve these changes, Michigan State University would be the only remaining college in the Big Ten that would accommodate smokers in the residence halls.
While RHA had good intentions, such as promoting smoking cessation campaigns, it fails to address the concerns of residents in the dorms. Most freshmen are forced to live in the dorms – their private homes – for which they pay large sums of money. In order to best accommodate all students, the RHA should acknowledge that some students, while relatively few, wish to have smoking rooms and provide for them in the residence halls.
RHA claims that students’ health is at risk due to the second hand smoke from the smoking rooms. However, RHA did not adequately question problems with the ventilation system, which repeatedly circulates the air and in turn the smoke throughout the residence halls. In order to protect students’ rights to choose a smoking room as well as a healthy atmosphere for all residents, the RHA should focus more on fixing the flawed vents.
The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners is considering passing a policy that would ban smoking in all indoor public places except for bars and restaurants. This policy is beneficial since everyone is welcome at these public locales. Likewise, the University banned smoking in most buildings in 1994 since they were also open to the public. This, however, does not hold true in dorm rooms since students live there for a period of eight months and should be allowed to feel at home, which, in this case, would mean allowing them to smoke.
The University has a responsibility to offer a comfortable living arrangement for all students choosing to live in the dorms. This entails taking into account the needs of those students who would like to smoke in their home, even if this home is in a residence hall.