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ISSUE 115 VOL 20 PUBLISHED 5/3/2002

Students’ smoking rights under fire: Mannebach proposes new policy to outlaw smoking in dormitories

By Molly Bayrd
Contributing Writer

Friday, May 3, 2002

For most college students, living on a college campus represents an increased amount of opportunity and an abundance of previously inaccessible freedoms. However, there are some issues of collegiate life over which students have little control. St. Olaf residents in particular have had little influence on the amount of cigarette smoke to which they are exposed each day.

Pamela Mannebach said that poorly-ventilated dorms such as Kildahl, Larson, and Ellingson still retain much of the cigarette smoke left in the hallways, mattresses and curtains by former residents. In previous years, St. Olaf students have had the liberty to choose whether or not smoking was permissible within their dorm rooms; few have deviated from what has become a typically "smoke-free by choice" policy.

Pamela Mannebach, director of residence life, has recently proposed a policy that would prohibit smoking in all of the residence halls and honor houses. Smoking within ten feet of any building exit or entrance (not including fire exits) would also be forbidden. Dean of Student Life Greg Kneser will consider the policy when he receives the proposal this week. The proposal, if passed, will come into effect during the 2002-2003 academic year.

Once Kneser has perused the policy and has consented to its approval, it will be sent to the cabinet for final consideration. The cabinet, which consists of the presiden, vice-president, and other select members of the faculty, will have the final say in whether or not the policy will be accepted or rejected. The entire process should take no more than a few weeks, and Mannebach expects that the matter will be completely settled by the end of the semester.

"Changes usually occur during the school year, not in the summertime," Mannebach said.

The idea for the policy arose from Mannebach's increasing frustration with the amount of burn-damaged furniture and cigarette-sparked fires within residence halls. One such incident, which occurred on April 1 in Larson Hall, may cost up to $1,000 in repairs. "I am not going to budget for vandalism … that's ridiculous," said Mannebach. The student who is responsible for the fire is being held fully accountable for the incident.

Recently, Mannebach's no-smoking policy has been the focal point of discussion among St. Olaf students. Even the smokers on campus are relatively nonplussed about the potential switch to a smoke-free campus.

"I can understand if somebody doesn’t want smoke inside the dorms," Tom Muehle ’05, a smoker, said. "Even I don’t want smoke in my room. However, I think that if this policy is put into effect an alternative place to smoke should be provided."

Non-smoker Clare Berke ‘05 voiced similar thoughts on Mannebach's idea. "Personally, I have not found the amount of smoking at St. Olaf to be bothersome," Berke said. "I understand those who don't want to be around it. It's a respect issue. However, it is also important to respect a person's choice of actions."

There are still several students who may dispute the proposal. However, St. Olaf is not the only college to become involved in a no-smoking campaign. St. Could State, Mankato State, and many Wisconsin state schools have already gone smoke-free.

Mannebach feels that her policy will do a great deal for the improvement of general health at St. Olaf and said, "There are no real negatives to passing this policy, and it won't cost the students a penny."

The policy, if passed, will be treated much as noise violations are. If one is caught smoking in a restricted area, he or she will be warned and will be required to complete several hours of community service. Upon being warned a second time, a student could face very severe consequences including the possibility of expulsion. Unlike noise violations, which can be negotiated through contracts and quiet hours, smoking violations will not be subject to compromise.

Some may not even notice the change. "I don't even know anyone who smokes in the dorms anyway. The policy would just be cleaning up the few instances where smoking has been a problem," Aaron Williamson ‘05 said.

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