Smoke Free SLC: Policy or Reality?

Cigarette butts near a bench on Kimball Ave. Photo by Janaki Chadha '17

Cigarette butts near a bench on Kimball Ave. Photo by Janaki Chadha '17

This year is the year of smoke-free SLC. The decision leading to this was one surrounded by great controversy, and prompted serious discussions on both health and students’ rights to have freedom over their own bodies. While issues such as the dangers of second-hand smoke were debated among students and faculty, others were also brought to light. The smoke-free SLC decision meant that Sarah Lawrence College would have power over every student’s personal decisions, seeing as telling a student not to smoke is preventing them from performing an action that, if done within the previous regulations set by the school, would not harm other students or disturb the peace in any way. 

Additionally, when the decision was made that the campus would become smoke-free in 2015, the students of Sarah Lawrence began to question the decision processes leading up to this decision. Some felt like they had not been thoroughly involved in the decision making process while other said that Sarah Lawrence students were at blame for not deciding to become involved enough in this process.

With this new rule in effect, those that smoke have discovered that even though smoking is banned with strict fines and housing probation, there is in fact a loophole. City-owned streets and sidewalks are actually excluded from this policy, seeing as Sarah Lawrence cannot reinforce this rule on land the College does not own. 

Though students smoking on the city-owned street and sidewalks are safe from the persecution of the College, the fact remains that this practice results in large amounts of students crowding the curb on these select streets, forced to smoke their cigarettes side by side with the cars and trucks rushing past. 

When asked how the students have discovered this loop hole, a large group of students, sitting on a bus stop bench, point out, “They posted it on doors all over campus saying these are the smoking ban places that are okay to smoke: Kimball, Glen Washington, but not Mead Way but then I’ve seen security smoking out on Mead Way.”     

They feel that the college’s smoke-free policy has mostly just inconvenienced students. “This really isn’t a smoke-free SLC, they have just made it more difficult to smoke,” one student says. Many of the students insisted on remaining anonymous for this article for fear of retribution claiming, “I don’t want to get on housing probation, I don’t want a hundred dollar fine. The third offense is a three hundred dollars fine and no housing.” One student goes as far to explain, “People should definitely go to the gated communities near by and smoke there instead till the ban is lifted.” 

Taking the effects of the ban a step further, it is important to acknowledge that this ban is not only applicable to the students but also the entire staff and faculty employed at Sarah Lawrence College. For teachers, that means that they must wait until their class is over to move to an off campus location and smoke. For security guards, however, its requires them to abstain for as long as they are working which can be hours. 

One student, Zoe, says, “They’re now leaving their job, I see them out of their cars, standing in the middle of the street, just to smoke.” Traveling at night throughout the campus, security guards can be seen, out by the street, forced to leave their posts for a quick smoke break. Some students fear that this growing phenomenon will lead to a less secure campus.

Ariela Brody '16

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SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.