Note: this column is part of a point counterpoint debate regarding the new policy to ban smoking on campus. Click here to read the other half.
On March 29, the Student Government Association (SGA) held a meeting to address student concerns about the proposed campus wide smoking ban. Those who attended discovered that there was no actual, concrete reason given for the ban.
Out-going SGA student body president, Alex Henry, speculated about reasons for the ban. He cited concern for some students and staff who are allergic to cigarette smoke, the mess created by cigarette butts being littered on the ground, and the failure of security guards to enforce the smoking restrictions currently in place.
The SGA then heard arguments, both for and against the ban. They recorded the statements of 30 plus students against the ban, and three who were in favor of it, and said that they were going to present them before the CGC executive team that will be voting on the ban.
A CGC representative at the meeting, who would not give her name, said that there was not an executive team in place but that the CGC was going to hold a meeting to elect one. The elected team would then go on to vote on making the campus smoke free. She wouldn’t say when the meeting to elect the executive team was going to be held, and wouldn’t say who first proposed the ban.
Perhaps the most offensive reason offered is that no one should be able to smoke because some students and staff are allergic to the smoke. This is a transparent attempt to eliminate smoking while appearing benevolent and caring. If there was any actual concern for student health, Mercer would have a full-time nurse and they would have replaced the lone psychologist, who quit last month. The cafeteria and vending machines should stop selling products that contain nuts, and start serving low-fat, hypo-allergenic choices.
If they are really worried about the mess, they could put more ashtrays at the designated smoking areas and acknowledge the efforts of students like third year Theater Arts major Nick Andrejco who organized a cleanup team to sweep up all the stray butts laying around campus. Andrejco and his team did this in less than an hour on the day of the SGA meeting.
Maybe the real problem is CGC is mad that security isn’t enforcing the current policy, but making a more extreme policy is guaranteed to fail spectacularly. It would be like banning cars because cops weren’t writing speeding tickets. That thinking makes no sense. It’s bad enough that Mercer has a totally unenforceable visible ID tag policy, but adding another completely unenforceable policy? How can anyone take this school seriously when the people in charge believe it is reasonable to burden 15 security officers with the obligation to police an estimated four thousand smokers (presumably in between checking the ID’s of 12,000 students)? It’s wrong headed and embarrassing.
Frankly, Mercer has pursued a number of foolhardy notions of late, from letting a felonious professor stick around to rile up his classes through the end of the semester, to putting in $160,000 flashing signs at the school’s entrances. It’s time for a win for Mercer, and banning smoking on campus will not be it.