This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Mary Ellen Mcintire.
About 30 students chain-smoked in Kogan Plaza for an hour Tuesday to protest the University’s plan to go smoke-free by September 2013.
While more than 80 individuals hit “attend” on Facebook, less than half as many showed up to the subdued protest, mostly clad in suits. Students blew smoke in each other’s faces while sitting on the clock tower, holding signs that read “Keep Calm Smoke On” and “Smokers of the World Unite!”
“It violates everything the University claims to protect, which is students coming to their own decisions, freely,” said junior Christian Geoghegan, who led the demonstration. “They want to say smoking is bad, obviously. No one is arguing against that. But it’s our choice to do that to ourselves.”
Senior Ellis Klein said he was motivated to organize the protest with Geoghegan because he felt that enough students were not consulted in the decision-making process. In a Student Association referendum held last spring, 66 percent of voters supported banning smoking within 25 feet of campus buildings and in public spaces. But fewer than 20 percent of the student body voted – a point Klein emphasized.
He said the vote did not represent campus smokers, many of whom did not know of the referendum, though the study body received an email regarding the initiative last semester. Klein added that the protest was also on behalf of future campus smokers.
Klein and Geoghegan added the ban creates a security concern because students will be forced to go off campus to smoke.
“Say there’s a freshman girl in Thurston. She and her friends would like to have a cigarette. It’s late at night. Now, under the current rules, she can safely go outside and sit on the benches outside of Thurston and have her cigarette,” Klein said, as opposed to traveling to find a place to smoke without violating rules.
But some students, like freshman Michael Davis, said they were not worried about the ban because it would prove difficult for the University to enforce.
“As far as the ban is concerned, it’s not going to be effective. People are going to keep smoking. I know that I’m going to keep smoking,” Davis said.