The campus-wide Smoking-Free Initiative has been a source of controversy since President Mary Sue Coleman penned it on her Johnson & Johnson stationary set — owing to the totalitarian manner in which it became law, the size of the demographic it will affect and how University officials propose to enforce it. Though the validity of the law is debatable, I wish to address two recent developments regarding the smoking ban: the idea of enforcing laws with “peer pressure” and the $240,805 allotted for its implementation.

A quote from St. Thomas Aquinas — made famous by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” — asserts that “any law that degrades human personality is unjust.” Though King uses this passage to support his argument against segregation, it very much applies to the situation at hand. In King’s circumstances, his interpretation is that a law passed by those in authority, enforced by the same authority and that degrades the human personality of those it will be applied to is unjust.

In July 2011, the University will place the burden of enforcing this initiative on us, the students. What is peer pressure but a means of unjust influence? What is the use of unjust influence but a degradation of human personality? For our own officials to encourage the practice of peer pressure is something that I will never understand and would never expect anyone else to. The people hired to manage the University, an institution I trust to hold the best wishes of its students in mind, hope to separate our campus and reduce us to mere whistleblowers and bullies, through the very same practice of peer pressure that caused many smokers to pick up the habit.

This, however, isn’t simply a question of morality.

Michigan’s unemployment rate is one of the worst in the country because the states’s economy was one of the hardest hit by the recession. We’re part of an era in which students share desks and teachers find other jobs. With this in mind, how can any gratuitous spending be justified? More specifically, how can the most prominent public university in Michigan spend $240,805 on the implementation of an executive order with shaky foundations and a proposed enforcement battalion of student-narcs? Schools all over our state are cutting positions and programs, but we’re adding a salaried overseer to manage what, exactly? Enforcing this new law? No, they’ve left that up to us, the students, who out of hundreds of other schools, chose to spend four years at the University, expecting to find the welcoming atmosphere it claims to provide.

Keeping in mind that what Mussolini did to Italy was considered legal in his day, and Egyptian civilians protesting the dictatorial, nearly 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak is a punishable offense, let us not dote on the justness of this smoking initiative. We know by now that injustice is a natural byproduct of government, deliberate or not. However, the fact that the ban has caused University officials to institute a policy of peer pressure on our campus and to spend $240,805 of our ever-diminishing budget, is grounds for revocation of this initiative, or at the very least, a serious reformation.

Timothy Hall is an LSA sophomore.

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