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ASMC votes: smoke-reduced campus

An ashtray by Lisser Hall. According to the campus smoking discussion in recent weeks, students would like smoking areas equipped with ashtrays, sturdy covering and seating.  Photo by Chantelle Panackia.

At its Oct. 24 meeting, the Associated Students of Mills College (ASMC) recommended that Mills College become a “smoke-reduced” campus, raise the smoking fine to $100 and create 10 designated smoking areas. They also advised that the College widely advertise these policy changes before they take effect.

ASMC defines a smoke-reduced campus as one where smoking is limited to designated smoking areas, a minimum of 30 feet away from buildings and within five feet of a designated ashtray. ASMC also suggests that extra money generated from the proposed smoking fine increase be applied back to the enforcement of the new smoke-reduced policy.

However, ASMC’s proposal — which they will submit to the Division of Student Life and the Board of Trustees — isn’t the end-all, be-all decision. The College will ultimately decide what to do about campus smoking, but it has invited ASMC to formally submit this suggestion on behalf of the student body.

“This discussion doesn’t necessarily end in this room,” ASMC Vice President Rebecca Freeman said. “It’s just going to be considered as a strong consensus of the students.”

Over the past few weeks, students have had opportunities to share concerns and ideas about the campus smoking issue to the ASMC Full Board and (Non)Smoking Committee at their respective meetings as well as the College administration at the Fall Community Meeting.

The general consensus among students is to go the smoke-reduced route as opposed to the campus being entirely smoke-free.

ASMC President Modesta Tamayo asked the student government to direct their brainstorming toward what they would like a smoke-reduced campus to look like. Should the College equip designated campus smoking areas with covers, ashtrays and benches at students’ request, it’s possible that ASMC would help fund these new facilities.

“Where will we suggest the designated smoking areas should be?” Tamayo asked. “What are some ideas we have about building some kind of structure for people to smoke under, and what will that funding look like?”

Defining “Smoke-Reduced”

ASMC agreed to define a smoke-reduced campus as one where smoking is limited to designated smoking areas, a minimum of 30 feet away from buildings and within five feet of a designated ashtray.

This definition didn’t come about without disagreement.

Sustainability Senator Megan Nicholas-Harper suggested that students be allowed to smoke within 10 feet of a designated ashtray as opposed to five.

“I feel like the ‘five feet within a designated ashtray’ rule would make some people feel like they’d have to herd around some designated spot,” Nicholas-Harper said.

Health Senator Colleen Kimsey said that is exactly what should happen.

“That’s kind of the point of these designated smoking areas,” Kimsey said. “They’re there to provide an area that works for smokers and that doesn’t interfere with other people’s activities. Because 10 feet from, say, the meadow behind the Tea Shop (a possible designated smoking area) would be in the street going to Founders. It’s a main walkway. We’re trying to move smokers away from main areas. Ten feet is a wide tether.”

Class of 2012 Historian Meaghan Leferink reminded ASMC that the actual numbers don’t matter.

“Smokers don’t sit out and measure where five feet is,” Leferink said. “It’s the idea of five feet. It’s the number that we want to say, ‘You need to be close,’ and five feet designates that that’s a smaller space than 10 feet.”

Five feet within an ashtray would be simple to enforce, Kimsey said, and the idea of five feet is that people are right by the ashtrays so that, when they’re finished smoking, they can properly dispose of their cigarette butts.

$100 Smoking Fine

Kimsey said at the Oct. 24 ASMC meeting that there might be an existing $50 smoking fine on campus, but Public Safety Assistant Director Niviece Robinson later said that no such fine has been established.

“People are good about moving to another location to smoke when approached,” Robinson wrote in an Oct. 28 e-mail.

At their Oct. 24 meeting, though, ASMC operated under the assumption that there was a $50 smoking fine already in place.

Academic Affairs Chair Maja Sidzinska suggested that the assumed $50 smoking fine be increased to $100.

“That way, we can get money from the rule breakers to fund these designated smoking area coverings,” Sidzinska said.

There’s nothing in place that would make that money go to ASMC or the non-smoking fund, Tamayo said, arguing that the money would probably go to Public Safety.

However, Robinson said that revenue generated from smoking fines would go to the Mills general fund.

ASMC agreed to recommend that the College apply any revenue generated from the proposed $100 smoking fine toward the implementation and continued enforcement of the smoke-reduced policy.

At Freeman’s suggestion, ASMC also decided to recommend that the College make the new smoke-reduced policy widely known to students, both smokers and nonsmokers, before implementing the policy.

“Your concern is that students will be pissed and shocked by this huge fine,” Sidzinksa said to Freeman to recap and clarify the suggestion. “If they don’t have enough advanced warning, that’s not good. Also, I think it would be important to make it public outside of the regular policy update that goes out twice a year to draw extra attention to it, because that’s a big increase.”

Designated Smoking Areas

Tamayo said that, according to the recent campus smoking discussion, it sounds like students want designated smoking areas to have ashtrays, sturdy coverings and benches.

“I can’t help but think about how putting in benches at 10 different spots is going to cost us money,” Nicholas-Harper said. “Our school’s trying to save money and cut costs — this is a big issue. They’re talking about having furloughs for teachers and staff here. Where do you want to allocate funds? What’s our real priority, and is this really one of them?”

Campus smoking has been an issue for a long while, according to Tamayo. It’s come to this point — deciding where designated smoking areas are going to be and how they need to be equipped — because of discussions with smoker groups in the past.

Smokers have expressed that they don’t want to make non-smokers uncomfortable or induce asthma attacks.

“But a part of the issue is that smokers don’t feel like they have anywhere to smoke,” Tamayo said. “They don’t have any coverings, which forces them to be closer to the buildings or they can’t smoke because their cigarette goes out. Being closer to the buildings puts them within the 30 feet range and they get fined, or students call their resident advisers and complain because smoke is coming through their window while they’re trying to sleep.”

Tamayo said the campus smoking discussion was on the table before she started at Mills four years ago, but the issue has never been resolved because no one has taken the steps to give the smokers what they need.

“Part of respecting people’s autonomy to smoke,” Kimsey said, “is providing them with the correct facilities. If we do provide them with adequate seating, ashtrays and coverage, I feel like that’s what they need to smoke. To have that limited space is part of reducing secondhand smoke on campus. It’s what smokers need to smoke while respecting others’ right to clean air.”

The Campanil marks each ASMC-recommended smoking area with numbered circles corresponding with the list to the right.

ASMC’s 10 recommended designated smoking areas

1. Meadow area behind Tea Shop, between two commuter parking lots

2. Space between NSB and Sage Hall that’s off the main path

3. By Courtyard Townhouses

4. By Prospect Hills Apartments

5. Ethel Moore Hall and Mary Morse Hall would share a smoking area

6. Ege Hall, Larsen House Co-Op and Ross House would share a smoking area

7. By the Underwood Apartments

8. CPM (However, the proximity to Health Center and Children’s school would need to be carefully thought out.)

9. Grassy area between Art Museum and Studio Art classes

10. Behind the Music Building