At a residence hall organization regional conference at Pennsylvania State University in November, Omer Kaufman, this university’s Residence Hall Association president, spoke with Jeffrey Cusick, his Towson University counterpart, about Towson’s smoking ban policy.
Towson, which has no designated smoking areas, subjects students and faculty to a $75 fine for smoking on the campus.
“That was a very interesting conversation, and just asking, not just him, but other regional members, how did they operate and whether they have [a smoking ban] at all,” Kaufman said.
The implementation of the university smoking ban, approved by the University Senate in April after a University System of Maryland mandate, has proven difficult. The ban on smoking activities went into effect in July, but Kaufman said the inability to shape an enforcement plan that will satisfy all affected parties is rendering the ban ineffective. As this university’s RHA pushes for progress, Kaufman said one thing has become clear: The problem is one universities across the system and country are also grappling with.
“There’s no one answer,” Kaufman said. “We are constantly looking at ways that could try to mitigate all these different concerns and make our campus as good of an environment as it could possibly be for the majority of our residents that we represent.”
In the spring, the RHA worked with other campus organizations to designate four smoking areas, although there is still no official method of enforcing the ban. The RHA also passed a resolution last month to support new educational efforts and uphold administrative sanctions for smoking outside dorms. Now, they’re looking to other schools for constructive solutions to test.
“We’re still looking for a solution,” said John Thacker, the RHA public relations and outreach officer for the upcoming spring semester. “We’re still working with students to make the ban as good as a situation for everyone as possible.”
The RHA addressed North Hill students’ concerns Tuesday night by passing a resolution to improve the smoking area by McKeldin Library, which Ashley Feng, a North Hill senator, said was causing problems due to lack of definition of the designated location.
“People often ignore the area and smoke on the sidewalks,” she said.
The University of Maryland, Baltimore County seemed less invested in student and faculty input, according to Sam Manas, the opinions editor of The Retriever Weekly, the UMBC student newspaper. UMBC designated two smoking areas and implemented a $50 fine for smoking outside those locations.
“There was no student participation in its passing, the smoking areas are far-flung at best and there was little consideration of different groups on campus,” Manas wrote in an August column.
The University of Michigan, a Big Ten school similar in student population size to this university, adopted a smoke-free policy in July 2011 that prohibits smoking on the campus. Similar to this university, Michigan has a less punitive approach, aiming to enforce the policy through an educational campaign.
“Education for sure is perhaps the easiest to stomach from both camps,” Kaufman said.
Kaufman said the RHA plans on increasing visibility as its next step. Last week, the RHA unanimously passed a resolution to approve a Department of Resident Life poster campaign, and the department agreed to improve how it handles the smoking ban.
“We’re going to get all the word back out to the staff,” said Deb Grandner, Resident Life director. “We’re 100 percent behind [the RHA] on this.”
Grandner said part of the enforcement issue could stem from new resident assistants being unaware of the university’s smoking policies. Kaufman said the smoking ban is also a divisive issue, creating factions of smokers and nonsmokers who want different results, making it difficult to discuss productively.
The RHA understands that no policy will be ideal, but it’s continuing to search for an alternative to address the flaws in the current policy.
“We could have very easily said, ‘The areas are here. We’re good,’ but that’s not the case,” said Kaufman. “The situation is far from being perfect and we strive to make the situation perfect to make the campus perfect for all.”