Voters will weigh in on smoke-free policy

Graduate students Neela Satyanarayana and Jahmeilia Paul spoke to the Student Association Senate Monday, urging senators to pass a ballot referendum considering smoke-free building entrances. Michael Boosalis | Hatchet Photographer

A campus smoking policy will be put to a student vote next week, the Student Association Senate decided at its meeting Monday night.

Senators voted to add a ballot referendum about a proposed 25-foot smoking ban around campus buildings, brought to the SA by the student wellness group Colonials for Clean Air.

The ballot measure would have no policy effect and would only allow the SA to gauge student opinion before supporting the cause.

The organization has lobbied University administrators since last fall urging them to take up their “25 feet for health” campaign.

“We want to get students to rally around this cause,” Tameila Paul, a graduate student and member of Colonials for Clean Air, said to the senate.

GW’s smoking policy, which is up for review in May 2012, allows buildings to enforce smoking restrictions near entrances if there are “concerns over air quality or the presence of combustible materials.”

No GW buildings currently implement this policy.

Senators rattled off questions about imposing the rule on non-University property like sidewalks and streets, and the feasibility of enforcement on campus. The pair said their group was looking at “best practices” at universities with similar policies, and would talk to the University about possible ways to uphold the rules.

Sen. Bradley Dlatt, CCAS-G, rebuked the policy for being “absolutely” unenforceable, but called on senators to give students the opportunity to decide themselves.

Another member who spoke on behalf of Colonials for Clean Air,  Neela Satyanarayana, stressed the group was not taking aim at “smokers’ rights,” and explained any smoke-free barrier around buildings would be somewhat flexible depending on that area.

“We know people aren’t going to count 25 feet and move away from the doors. But we at least want to get them to step away from the doors,”  Satyanarayana said.

The SA also unanimously approved nearly $14,000 of spending as part of its midyear allocations bill. The funding bill included $4,500 to continue free daily delivery of the New York Times for students. The free newspaper program was slashed this fall, springing up pushback within the SA. Sen. Michael Amesquita, G-GSEHD, and Rohan Batra, SA vice president of academic affairs, looked at various options before deciding to continue its New York Times daily paper deal.

Amesquita, who contacted more than a dozen other schools with a free daily paper program, said most paid for it using student activity funds.

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