EDITORIAL: Students need a voice in addressing potential smoking ban
- Yes 67%
- No 33%
9 total votes.
Our View: The proposed smoking ban should be put to a campuswide vote.
President David Boren announced his plan for a campuswide smoking ban during his State of the University speech Monday.
Boren said a committee of faculty, staff and students is in the works to draft the language of the proposed ban. Once this language is drafted, the OU Board of Regents will decide whether to approve the ban, university spokesman Michael Nash said, leaving no room for large-scale public input.
This isn’t the first time a smoking ban has been championed. A UOSA referendum proposing a smoking ban was approved by 49 percent of students who voted in April 2009, with 29 percent agreeing to a partial ban and only 22 percent wanting no policy change, according to Daily archives.
Student Congress passed a resolution encouraging Boren to restrict smoking on campus in March 2010. These events failed to inspire any direct action, until now. And they still haven’t, judging by Boren’s description of the inspiration for the ban — faculty members’ own experiences seeing cigarette butts littering campus and an email from the landscape director (sent less than two hours before Boren’s speech) detailing the costs of cigarette-related cleaning.
Fewer than 12 percent of students voted in the 2009 UOSA election, so the results can’t be taken as a strong mandate. But the bigger question is, if this newest push isn’t directly related to past actions by the student body — instead a result of a last-minute staff email and epiphanies brought on by cool weather strolling — then we have to question whether anyone in the administration cares to take student opinion into account.
Why wasn’t something done immediately after these decisions, if they played a role in Boren’s announcement? And if, as Boren suggested, they didn’t play any role, what does that say about the relative importance of UOSA and the student concerns it represents?
If Boren is serious about this ban, a few student representatives on an advisory panel aren’t going to cut it. This issue must be put to a campuswide vote. Every member of the campus community should be given a chance to weigh in on the proposed ban. And both sides should be given a chance to publically defend their position.
The administration and those in support of the ban need to present solid evidence that campus smoking is creating a less healthy environment and that a smoking ban will be an effective deterrent. Those opposed to the ban will have to convince the OU community that smoking is an important privilege and present plans to curtail the littering, destruction and rude behavior that led to the call for this ban in the first place.
Democracy, not unilateral actions, will result in the best outcome in this case. This is, of course, not always true. Many social issues are not best decided by majority opinion, particularly when it involves the rights of a minority.
But in this instance, when approval and disapproval of the ban would both affect the rights of community members — the former curtailing the rights of smokers to pursue a legal activity, the latter restricting the rights of all students to enjoy a clean and healthy campus — the best course is to follow the decision of those affected by the ban.
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