Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Students get a taste of Schattschneider

The student senate here at DU passed a resolution last night in support of a tobacco-free campus policy. That doesn't mean a no-smoking policy -- smoking is already prohibited indoors. This means no use of tobacco (cigars, hookahs, chew) anywhere on campus.

I've been hearing stories from students about how the student senate meeting went. The anti-tobacco forces produced a petition with more than 1,000 signatures on it -- not a small feat on a campus with around 5,000 students. A small but very passionate contingent of anti-tobacco activists showed up at the senate meeting, along with a larger but less passionate group of students who opposed the ban. Senators were reportedly torn on the issue, and no reliable polling data existed. The two freshman senators, told that the freshmen on campus were split on the issue, reportedly split their vote in response.

In the end, the senators voted with the organized minority rather than the disorganized majority.

This is far from being the law of the campus, of course. The faculty senate, interestingly enough, has already rejected this policy. So now the chancellor gets to decide whether he values students or faculty more.

2 comments: said...

It reminds me of the slogan posted in buildings in France, when they first started eliminating smoking in public buildings: Liberty is reciprocal.

There it was clearly intended to emphasize that non-smokers should have the freedom to not breathe smoke.

But here the slogan takes on its reciprocal meaning.

Jeremy said...

If I'm not mistaken, there was also some anger over the presentation of the original survey itself, which merely asked whether students would personally prefer it if the campus was smoke free (who, other than smokers, wouldn't prefer that theoretically?). What the survey didn't say was that they were testing support for a ban and for campus safety to spend their time and resources looking for smokers to punish. I didn't take the survey myself, but I think that's where a lot of the controversy is coming from.