By John Connolly
The Student Government Association (SGA) senate voted in favor a resolution that would deem the campus of Catholic University smoke free, during their weekly meeting on Monday, March 14th.
Resolution 006 was written and presented by senator Rachel Vierra of the School of Engineering. Vierra is also a co-chair of Catholic University’s chapter of Colleges Against Cancer.
The bill Vierra presented states that, “in order to protect the health and safety” at Catholic University, the senate “requests that the current ‘Campus Smoke-Free Policy’ be replaced with ‘Designated Smoking Zones Policy.’”
The new smoking zone policy calls for 11 designated smoking zones throughout the university’s campus. Each zone would have benches, ashtrays, and signage indicating that smoking is permitted in the area. Individuals who smoke outside of the designated areas will be subject to fines. By designating these 11 zones, students will not have to be exposed to smoking and Vierra feels that “the air will be healthier for everyone who comes to campus to learn or work.”
Under Catholic University’s current smoking policy, an individual is permitted to smoke anywhere outside on campus but must stay at least 25 feet away from any doors, windows, vents, or other intakes on buildings. Many in the senate noted university authorities do not closely enforce the current rule.
Vierra feels that the university should follow the practices seen on other campuses. According to research Vierra presented to the Student Government Association senate, 1,475 college campuses in the United States have a smoke free policy, which equates to roughly 56 percent of all campuses in the country. George Washington University, American University, and Georgetown University all identify as smoke free campuses. Vierra also pointed out that roughly 53,000 non-smoking Americans die from second hand smoke each year.
Vierra said that her motivation for a new smoking policy began early during her time at Catholic University.
“When I came to Catholic University, I was shocked about the cigarette smoking culture. I strongly believe that reforming the smoking policy is a positive change that keeps the health and welfare of all students in mind. Secondhand smoke has so many harmful effects on people that can be prevented when small changes are made. Universities around the United States are moving toward a tobacco free campus and making designated zones is CUA’s first step to keeping in line with the current trend,” Vierra said.
Some in the senate felt that the resolution was infringing on the rights of students. Senior Matt Hanrahan said the bill was a “dangerous precedent.”
“Nearly 25 percent of college students smoke. This bill will have a direct and significant impact on smokers, while having minimal affects on the rest of the student body. There is already animosity directed towards SGA, and a bill like this will further the disdain. If we lose the trust of the student body, our work is meaningless,” Hanrahan said.
The Student Government Association also discussed recent action regarding support for CUAllies. Vice President James Benedek announced that, after meeting with officials from the office of the Dean of Students, he felt that “it would be nearly impossible” for the organization to be recognized this year.
Instead of recognizing an LGBT support group, President St. Amant proposed appointing two LGBT ambassadors who would meet with the Dean of Students to discuss issues facing LGBT students.
While St. Amant is able to create any position she deems necessary, the senate must approve of any nomination to the position. The senate failed to approve this new plan in a non-counting symbolic vote.