In and of itself, Fairfield University’s decision this summer to ban smoking in the residence halls was a highly debatable decision on a very controversial issue. However, the most appalling part of the entire decision-making process is that no public debate on the issue ever took place.

Banning smoking within the residence halls is an action that affects every student in some way, whether they smoke or not. Yes, smokers will suffer the cold, wind, and rain when they want a cigarette, but non-smokers will have to brave clouds of smoke and cigarette butts when they want to enter a building. There is absolutely no doubt that the people most impacted by this decision were students, but sadly the student body as a whole was never consulted directly on this issue.

After thinking long and hard, we cannot remember a time when the issue of a smoking ban was not greeted with near-universal skepticism or contempt by any group of students asked about it.

However, Dean of Students Mark Reed is quick to point out that the “University Council” (which consists of equal numbers of faculty, administrators and students), FUSA Senate, and IRHG were consulted on this issue, but such “consultation” was little more than a token gesture. The consent of a few dozen students to such a major policy change cannot be considered a mandate from the students.

The powers that be consistently fail to consult the student body as a whole on major decisions, then paradoxically wonder why apathy is such a big problem at Fairfield. It would be absolutely ludicrous for students to have change after change shoved down our throats and then be first in line to university events.

Reed also stated in an e-mail that “During June Orientation, when the question [about smoking] was asked by parents and the response given, 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.”

What Reed fails to aknowledge is that if anything, this spontaneous showing of “support” was from just parents, and not students. When a decision is made to alienate hundreds of people from the very space in which they live, maybe it would be more important to seek support from these people, especially when they’re no longer minors under parental control.

At issue here is not whether the idea of banning smoking in all residence halls is a good idea or not. What should be evaluated by the adminstration of this university is whether they are going to legitamately seek out student input before enacting policy or whether they are going to exert their wishes from the power position that they occupy without extensive discourse with those students that are affected by their decisions.

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