By Ryan Fitzgerald and Seán McGlone – Co-Editor-in-Chief, News Editor
In an email sent out on February 19, President Michael Alexander posed a question to the Lasell community – Should Lasell become a smoke-free campus? The referendum up in question would prohibit tobacco smoking on all Lasell property, including Lasell Village, with the exception of areas owned by the City of Newton.
A Town Meeting will be held in de Witt Hall on March 31 where members of the community can voice their opinions. The referendum will cultivate in an online voting process on April 19 where members of the community can cast votes online. While the vote will play a key part in the decision, ultimately the final decision will be made by the three supporting organizations in conjunction with the vote as well as the events and discussions leading up to it.
The decision to make this ballot is sponsored by the Student Government Association (SGA), the Faculty Assembly, and the Management Council. SGA has tried to create this discussion for a few years and SGA, along with Alexander, have decided a referendum is the best way for people to voice their opinions and come to a result. Currently, smoking is not allowed anywhere less than 25 feet away from Lasell buildings.
If the decision to make Lasell a smoke-free campus goes through, it would eliminate smoking on Lasell property entirely. The topic brings up a few issues. One being that, if smoking is banned, there will be more traffic on roads like Maple Street and Woodland Road, which are both property of the city of Newton.
This is a major issue for Assistant Director of Government and Community Relations Lindsey Beauregard. “If Lasell becomes smoke-free these public walkways would be the most convenient place for smokers to go. Thus, people walking on these sidewalks will be exposed to higher levels of secondhand smoke and cigarette litter,” Beauregard said in a statement sent to “1851 Chronicle.”
President Alexander is in favor of making Lasell a tobacco-free campus, but feels it is important for him to not be part of the decision. “Most of [the colleges] that have become smoke-free campuses have reported that it has been a good thing,” said Alexander, on re- search done by SGA. “Some of the things that we worry about have not occurred or have not been big problems [with other schools.]”
According to Alexander, 15 percent or less of the students at Lasell [uses tobacco], so they are the minority in this situation. One of the issues Alexander worries over is whether it is oppressive for the majority to decide what the minority can and cannot do. “That’s a tough moral question,” said Alexander.
A second topic Alexander considers is international students. “We know that a higher percentage of international students smoke [tobacco] than students from the United States,” said Alexander. “They come from a different culture and a different background, so is it right for us to tell people who have been raised a different way that they can’t bring their way of doing things here?” If Lasell became a tobacco free campus, the question becomes, will international students not come to Lasell or will they leave? “The experience on other campuses though appears to be no that it has not caused a reduction in international students, but still it’s a concern,” said Alexander.
Forcing frequent tobacco smokers to take their habit off-campus could potentially cause a problem inside residential buildings. “Would [the ban] drive smoking indoors, into the dormitories like drinking is already,” said Alexander. “That would be horrible because that increases the risks of a fire.” Other colleges that banned tobacco smoking have shown most students tend to self-police each other and this has not become a problem, according to Lasell’s President.
“I’m not totally opposed to it, I mean I think it’s a good idea. As a smoker right now, it is kind of annoying, but it is better for the environment, better for people,” said senior Kelly O’Dell. “If they have designated smoking areas, but other than that I don’t see a problem among smoking on campus.” said senior Quentin Anderson.