During Kristen Essel’s weekly floor meeting, a student expressed concern that the campuswide smoking ban wasn’t enforced and her resident assistant told the student there was no way to do so.
“I, for one, am appalled by that,” Essel, the Residence Hall Association’s administrative officer, said during Tuesday night’s RHA meeting. “Resident staff should be able to enforce this. It already is part of the guidelines.”
So the RHA unanimously passed a smoking ban resolution Tuesday night to try to improve the ban’s enforcement, including upholding administrative sanctions and supporting possible new efforts such as more RA training and a memo to the campus community.
In 2012, the Board of Regents, the 17-member board that sets University System of Maryland policies, banned all smoking activities on campuses effective July 2013. The University Senate approved the ban in April, limiting smokers to four designated locations on the campus.
But many students have felt enforcement is inadequate.
“I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints from students that this ban was ineffective,” said Essel, a junior government and politics and history major and the RHA bill’s author.
Though the Department of Resident Life’s Community Living Handbook prohibits smoking outside a dorm to prevent smoke from entering the building, one student living in La Plata Hall emailed the RHA about smoke coming in through his second-floor window, said RHA President Omer Kaufman. Many students are uncomfortable confronting someone smoking near a dorm, he said. This was especially critical because students have nowhere else to go to escape the smoke, he said.
The RHA’s new bill says rule violations will result in administration sanctions, Resident Life staff will actively enforce the policy, and the RHA will urge the department to better educate its staff on existing regulations.
The bill will make “all of our lives a lot easier the next time we have to communicate with administration,” Kaufman said.
Students debated how Resident Life would deal with violators, but Kaufman said the bill was more about “making sure when students are in a tough spot, they have someone they can turn to.”
“We’re here to protect those that don’t smoke rather than punish those that do,” he said, adding that Resident Life had “tremendous resources” to help students deal with smoking ban violators.
The RHA will approach university administrators about possible enforcement methods they’ve discussed with Resident Life Director Deb Grandner. These include emphasis on RA training, more discussion in resident director staff meetings and a memo to the campus community.
“If we don’t do something, it appears that nothing will happen,” said Mike Lichtenberg, RHA finance officer. “This [bill] is just one thing. It’s not the whole thing, and it shows that we want to take a stance.”
North Hill Area Council Senator Ashley Feng, who voted in favor of the resolution along with the rest of the RHA senators, viewed it as a symbol that hopefully would make campus organizations such as the senate and Student Government Association take action. Essel also envisioned other groups taking on the RHA’s stance.
“I just hope there’s a legitimate enforcement policy and the actual rules of the smoking ban are made clear,” the sophomore geography and government and politics major said. “It’s really vague for everyone.”