University warns of Ivory Tower smoking complaints

More students have complained this semester about smoking in Ivory Tower, prompting the University to email residents warning that officers could soon crack down on indoor cigarette use.

Twenty-two students have been charged with violating residence hall smoking policies so far this school year, Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities director Gabriel Slifka said.

Last academic year, 51 students were charged, a drop of 15 cases from the previous year.

The University Police Department sometimes steps in when incidents or complaints are reported to GW house staff members. But UPD Chief Kevin Hay said the office could not count how many reports were specifically from Ivory Tower by publication time.

“As we head into final exams, please take this opportunity to examine how your choices affect those around you. If you choose to smoke, please exit the building to do so in the future,” the email read.

Greg Rheault, who oversees juniors and seniors in the Center for Student Engagement, said the goal of the message was to make residents “aware of their responsibilities as members of the GW campus community, to recognize how their behaviors affect others and to inform residents how to report concerns to [the University Police Department].”

He said most of the incidents occur late at night or early in the morning, and students were voicing concerns to their house staff members about smoke coming into their rooms through ventilation systems.

When students are caught smoking indoors, they are brought before the University’s judicial branch for disciplinary action, with punishment ranging from warnings to probation. The severity of disciplinary action depends on whether other illegal substances are present in the room at the time of the bust – an incident Slifka said is rather common.

Students are also punished for covering smoke detectors or tampering with fire safety systems in other ways, Slifka said.

“The Office of Student Rights & Responsibilities only receives a small number of reports each academic year for a smoking policy violation not in conjunction with other policy violations,” Slifka said in an email.

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