It is a rainy and cold mid-September afternoon. You are relaxing in your dorm room, chatting with friends on Instant Messenger, and your roommate arises from the futon in desperate search for a lighter. After asking you if you have seen it, your roommate catches sight of the black Bic lighter protruding out from an old pizza box on the floor. Cupping one hand around the cigarette, your roommate proceeds to light it by the open window, as rain drizzles into the room. “Hey no problem,” you think to yourself, as this is just another typical day in the life of a college student.

Last year, this type of incident was allowed, because university policy permitted smoking in dorms and outside administrative buildings. However, according to this year’s Student Handbook, “Smoking is prohibited in all areas/sections of the academic and administrative buildings, as well as in all areas of the eight residence halls and the common areas of the apartment complex.” Smoking is still permitted in the townhouses and individual apartments.

Last spring, the office of the Dean of Students solicited recommendations and opinions on a smoking ban from the FUSA Senate, IRHG, the Health Center, and the University Council, which was comprised of equal numbers of students, faculty and administrators, according to Mark Reed, Dean of Students.

“There was consensus among the recommendations that smoke-free residence halls were a good idea from a wellness and safety perspective,” Mark Reed, dean of students, said. “However, there were different recommendations for how to create these areas and whether or not this should be mandated.”

After reviewing all of the information available and seeking the recommendation of the University Council, Reed made the decision to change the smoking policy.

Fran Koerting, director of residence life, said that resident assistants will handle most of the responsibility as far as enforcement of the smoking ban goes.

“It adds more responsibility to what [RAs] are already doing,” said Koerting. “We hope it won’t make their jobs harder, they just document what they see.”

Koerting also said she supports the use of fine money to accommodate smokers.

“If there’s going to be a fine that’s collected, I would love to see that money being put aside for accommodations to be made for people who have to go outside.

Jes Sadoski, ’03, an RA from Claver, was angry and skeptical about the new policy.

“I think it sucks and it’s going to be impossible to enforce,” she said.

“Students still have the right to smoke, and no one is denying or taking away that right,” Reed said. “However, despite our best intentions, smoking in residence halls does present a safety concern, and second-hand smoke does find its way into the common areas or other rooms.”

Violation of the smoking policy in the residence halls will result in a minimum fine of $100 and ten service hours, according to the student handbook. Underage drinking itself carries a fine of up to $200 for the first offense, regardless of whether the student was drinking or in the presence of alcohol, according to Reed.

However, in the student handbook, a first offense for being underage in the presence of alcohol “where responsible parties cannot be identified” mandates a $50 fine, according to the disciplinary chart section of the handbook’s alcohol policy section.

Because many alcohol incidents do not involve resident assistants or security officers not actually seeing underage students drink, responsible parties are often not identified, which results in students receiving a $50 fine instead of a fine of $200.

There is no fine for having cigarettes or being in the presence of smoking.

“When a student smokes in a residence hall, it impacts other students,” Reed said. “Our policy is consistent with many other schools, and apart from our policy review, the State of Connecticut has passed a law prohibiting smoking in all student residences at public colleges and universities.”

At Boston College, another Jesuit university, smoking is prohibited in all administrative buildings and vehicles. The prohibition applies to all indoor air space, including private faculty and administrative offices and all dining facilities. Smoking is permitted in students’ personal rooms, as determined by the occupants, and open areas outside buildings, if the area is not identified as a hazardous area.

New York City law prohibits smoking in public places such as residence hall lounges, hallways, stairwells, laundry rooms, bathrooms, and elevators. At Fordham University, a Jesuit university in the Bronx, smoking is only permitted in private rooms when consent is given by all roommates or suitemates. In the interests of safety, resident students and their guests are encouraged to follow safe smoking habits and properly dispose of ashtray contents. Clove and beedee cigarettes are also prohibited.

According to Reed, there has been no articulated objection to the smoking restriction from students, parents, or other member of the University community. During June Orientation, parents of incoming students were told of the new smoking ban on campus, and they interrupted the presentation with applause.

“This was certainly not planned by the University, and since it happened at both Orientation sessions, I think it is safe to say there is widespread support for this policy change,” Reed said.

Kaity Abruzzo ’04, an occasional smoker, disagrees with the change.

“If there is going to be a no smoking ban in residence halls, it should be banned throughout the whole campus,” Abruzzo said. “It is unfair to the juniors living in residence halls when other juniors in the townhouses and apartments are permitted to smoke. The ban will not deter me from smoking less just because I live in the dorms.”

Other students welcome a smoke-free living area. Caitie Bickhart ’06, a member of the University Glee Club, has seen the affects of smoking through her mother.

“After 20 years of smoking, my mother still has health problems, and I see what kind of terrible handicap it truly is,” Bickhart said. “I think cigarettes are bad, stupid, and people smoke out of boredom, and secondhand smoke is so bad.”

Shannon Bali ’06 agreed. “Cigarette smoke does not smell good,” Bali said. “As long as its not in the dorms, I do not mind it.”

Some research has shown that most students who smoke pick up the habit while they are at college.

“The number of incoming freshmen indicating that they are smokers has declined to a negligible number (under 20),” Reed said.

“Some people will pick up smoking while at college,” Bali said. “I think it really depends on what kind of friends you hang out with.”

In the past, the Department of Residence Life issued a profile handout to all incoming freshmen, which also asked about smoking preferences. Gary Stephenson, director of housing, said future classes will also be asked about smoking preferences.

“For the class of 2006, we did not put a smoker in with a non-smoker to the best of our knowledge,” Stephenson said. “I have every intention to this next year as well with incoming classes. For upperclassmen, it has not been our practice of late to ask that or to be concerned with that. Although when it comes to our attention, if it is a Residence Life issue we refer that to Residence Life, and they work out living contracts.”

All disciplinary fine money goes into a special, restricted account, monitored by the Dean of Students and is used to support student activities and student life. The money is not part of the University’s general fund.

Last year, a significant portion of the fine money was used to purchase wireless laptop computers for the Barone Campus Center, additional equipment for the Rec-Plex, and to support a group of students from the various media organizations to attend a college media conference in New York City.

The university already budgets wellness and health education programs every year, but if there is additional need for special programs for students, fine money may be used to support those activities.

“While I realize that there may be some students who disagree with this decision, it was not made without careful consideration and thought, as well as input from the appropriate representative sectors and groups,” Reed said.

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