During a lazy Saturday afternoon, an innocuous email notification pinged the phones of Haverford’s Sophomore Class. For those who opened what appeared to be another typical Students’ Council broadcast, a simple yet powerful sentence awaited:
“Dan Weiss is seriously considering making Haverford a smoke-free campus.”
Over the next 24 hours, a flurry of gossip exploded surrounding the implications of this email. Some students expressed concern about the possibility of an administrative override of the Smoking Policy; others wanted specifics on the definition of a “smoke-free campus.” A few particularly zealous Haverfordians began denouncing such potential measures as the beginnings of the Quakerized police state, stoking fears that the regime of Dan Weiss had pushed the College down the path to fascism.
Well, not quite. You won’t be seeing Campus Safety operating stop-and-frisk tobacco checkpoints anytime soon. The Honor Code and Smoking Policy aren’t going to be ceremoniously torn apart by a group of deans. Even those die-hard rebels that go so far as to smoke in their rooms will not be dragged into the streets and hung by the gallows.
No, I am quite willing to make the naïve wager that nothing close to an enforceable ban will ever be implemented on Haverford’s campus, for that was never the plan in the first place. What started as an honest proposal to update and improve the Smoking Policy has been repeatedly misconstrued as a fanatical crackdown on students’ rights. It’s time to separate the hysterics from the real substance of what has been enacted and proposed.
Students’ Council adopted the current Smoking Policy in 2005 with the intention of addressing varying feelings towards smoking on campus. Under the most recent amendment, upperclassmen can smoke in “Smoking Optional Housing” as long as no resident objects. Certain residence halls are designated “smoke-free areas” before Room Draw, and all freshmen housing is subject to a permanent ban on indoor smoking.
Understandably, the rule to allow smoking in specific residential buildings has received a fair share of criticism. A number of Haverfordians–the president included–have expressed concern over forcing residents of “Smoking Optional Housing” to enact a prohibition on their neighbors’ behavior. The Policy calls for confrontation under the Honor Code if mutual understanding cannot be reached. However, being the sole reason your newly moved-in neighbor can’t smoke is unappealing for many students. Nobody wants to be “that guy.”
What President Weiss wants to do is open a dialogue about these issues, not “make Haverford a smoke-free campus.” Indeed, at the last ever “Donuts with Dan” this past Wednesday, Weiss indicated that he merely wanted to broach the subject of smoking.
“My main objective, and this is my honest answer, is to engage the community in a serious discussion about what our smoking policy ought to be in light of what we know about public health issues,” Weiss stated. “I brought the issue without an agenda to Students’ Council.”
Such extremism! Considering public health issues? Taking into account those around us? Dan Weiss, in one of his last acts as president of the College, is guilty of the heinous crime of initiating the taboo discussion about how some of our behavior affects others.
There’s your smoking gun (pun intended). Extraordinarily enough, not only does Weiss not want to ban smoking outright—he actually cares about the concept of student governance. Nothing is going to change about the Smoking Policy without going through the long process of student-legislated policy changes. In fact, it’s very likely that no major action will occur until the next Plenary, which is just about furthest thing from administrative tyranny you’ll find in the college world.
There is no draconian rhetoric here; on the contrary, I would hope Weiss’ remarks to be an entirely palatable suggestion for a campus that prides itself on trust, concern, and respect for others. I say this as someone who enjoys a good cigar on occasion, and as a voracious defender of personal liberties. But respecting the concerns of others hasn’t ever placed some sort of unbearable restraint on myself and other individuals, because there are reasonable steps that can be taken to accommodate our peers. Weiss’ encouragement to reconsider the policy reflects this reality, one that has shown itself to have a strong effect on the quality of life for our residents.
So if I might quote the Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey: put that in your pipe and smoke it.