Every day around mealtimes, some students take a cigarette break at the entrance to Peirce Hall — a place where smoking is technically prohibited, according to the College’s smoking policy. A lack of enforcement and awareness of this policy has prompted Campus Senate to reevaluate Kenyon’s smoking policy.
On Oct. 27, Senate tasked three of its members, Ryan Carson ’17, Colin Cowperthwaite ’18 and Jacqueline McAllister, assistant professor of political science, with reviewing the College’s smoking policy. Their mission is to decide which parts of the policy are ineffective or conflict with Ohio state law. Though the three have not met yet, they plan to do so before Tuesday’s Senate meeting.
“We’re not entirely sure the current Kenyon smoking policy is in compliance with Ohio state law,” McAllister said. “We’re not changing any rules; we just want to make sure that we’re in compliance with Ohio state law. We’re trying to clean up the language.”
Kenyon’s current smoking policy is the product of a years-long, campus-wide debate. In 2011, Campus Senate presented a plan to make Kenyon smoke-free by 2016, which incited “hostile” debate between smokers and nonsmokers across campus, according to 2011 Collegian articles.
The Center for the Study of American Democracy held a forum on the topic in November 2011; some supported the ban due to its health benefits for smokers and nonsmokers alike, while others believed a ban would infringe on students’ rights.
“The ban proposal provoked some degree of outrage on campus, so what happened instead was a revision of the policy to try to designate certain areas where people could smoke,” associate professor of English and Campus Senate co-chair Sarah J. Heidt said.
Senate forged a compromise that restricted, but did not entirely ban, smoking on campus. The current policy, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2013, designates three non-residential areas where students are allowed to smoke: the lower-level courtyard north of Gund Commons, the area near the bike racks on the north side of the library (where Olin and Chalmers connect) and off the south end of Peirce Hall.
“I think that the limited amount of smoking spaces is not a wise way to deal with people smoking,” Lane Yates ’18 said. “Less smoking spaces is just about as effective as your parents telling you not to smoke in regards to the solution to the ‘smoking problem.’ Smokers will pretty much smoke wherever there is open air, in my experience.”
The policy also states that smoking in a residential area must occur at least 15 feet away from any buildings, including apartment-style residences.
Community Advisor Isabel Landers ’18 said CAs remind smokers who are too close to a building they need to be at least 15 feet away.
“In my experience, explaining why there are rules about smoking near buildings tends to lead to residents being more inclined to follow the rules, since in this case it puts not only themselves but other people in the building at risk,” Landers said.
Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, vice president for student affairs, said she believes the smoking policy is not effective as “there is a lack of clarity and understanding generally about where people are allowed to smoke on campus.”
Heidt also believes there is minimal, if any, enforcement of the current policy, which makes students feel as though they do not have to follow the rules in place.
“It’s hard for me to imagine that anyone thinks they’re going to get taken to the Student Conduct Review Board for being caught smoking,” Heidt said. “It’s not a policy that’s set up right now to be enforceable.”
Senate has discussed several areas of concern, such as a lack of signs indicating where students are permitted to smoke.
Cowperthwaite suggested installing ashtrays in front of Peirce and other spots that, though technically prohibited, are still popular smoking spots, according to McAllister and Heidt. This approach, however, would violate an Ohio state law dictating that an institution not put ashtrays in designated non-smoking areas. Cowperthwaite declined to comment for this article.
Several ashtrays violate this policy. There is an ashtray in front of Lentz House, which is not a designated smoking area, and closer than 15 feet to the entrance of Caples Residence Hall.
“The policy went through in part but not all the way,” Heidt said.
Senate will also discuss whether to add e-cigarettes and education on quitting smoking to future revisions of the smoking policy. The current policy does not address the existence of e-cigarettes, as it was written before e-cigarettes became popular.