After intense debate, the University Senate passed a resolution to prohibit smoking within 20 feet of all campus buildings on the Morningside campus on Friday despite the fact that most senators wanted to pass a full ban instead.
The passed resolution was a revised version of the original resolution that called for a 50-foot smoking ban, which was presented at the November meeting of the senate.
Alex Frouman, a Columbia College student senator, said that the executive committee and the external relations committee altered the resolution after reviewing the layout of the campus.
If a 50-foot ban was put in place, then it would be a de facto ban on the northeastern corner of campus, which does not include any space that is not within 50 feet of the buildings, he said. Further, because of these large differences in certain areas of campus, senators were concerned that the policy would be harder to enforce.
This policy will correspond to New York State law, which calls for a smoking prohibition within 20 feet of college residence halls. The few buildings on campus that already have 50-foot policies in place will change their policies to correspond to the 20-foot rule, he said.
Before the resolution was voted on, there were several failed attempts to add an amendment that would change the resolution’s policy to a full ban on campus.
School of Engineering and Applied Science senator Soulaymane Kachani and Business School senator Mark Cohen both put forth amendments for a full ban on campus.
“We should consider a far more draconian proposal … which in fact says there are no smoking on campus,” Cohen said during the meeting. Cohen argued that a 20-foot policy is inappropriate and a full ban should be discussed, especially since the Columbia University Medical Center already has a full ban and Barnard College is currently discussing one.
Cohen also argued that the Morningside Heights ban should include both the closed-off Morningside campus—bounded by 114th and 120th streets as well as Broadway and Amsterdam—and the other campus buildings at Morningside outside of this space.
However, Esteban Reichberg, a student senator from the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, spoke out against a full ban.
Reichberg is a severe asthmatic, has lost three of his grandparents to smoking, and is one of the few nonsmokers in a largely smoking family. But he said that he did not feel comfortable with the ban.
“I do not feel comfortable telling people what to do, what to put in their bodies,” he said.
One of the smoking ban’s largest opponents in the senate, Business School Senator Michael Addler, was absent on Friday.
Despite his absence, Addler proposed one amendment, via a message to Business School Student Senator Tao Tan, to have a minor word change on the resolution. He asked that the section that called for the policy to be reviewed “in two years” be changed to “within two years.” This change was extremely minor compared to the amendment he tried to get through in November, which called for smoking shelters to be installed on campus if a ban was passed.
By a show of hands, 31 senators favored the 20-foot resolution, and 13 opposed with two abstaining. Many senators emphasized the fact that a full ban could be discussed after the 20-foot resolution was passed.
Ron Mazor, a student senator from the Columbia Law School, said after the meeting that he was shocked at how quickly the 20-foot resolution was passed. The 20-foot policy was hardly discussed at all except when discussing a possible full-ban amendment.
After the resolution vote, many senators trickled out of the room, and a straw vote was held to determine the senate’s sentiments regarding a full smoking ban in both continuous and noncontinuous spaces at the Morningside campus.
Twenty-seven senators proved to be in favor with 10 opposed and two abstentions.
After the meeting, Mazor also expressed surprise at how quickly the senate’s discussion turned from a 20-foot ban to a full one and thus discarded the recommendations given to the senate by the Tobacco Work Group—the body that spent two years gathering opinions from students and faculty and studying local laws, policies at peer institutions, and current literature on tobacco and its long-term effects.
Mazor also believed the conversation disregarded the opinion of the Columbia College Student Council, which unanimously decided to support the 20-foot ban but not a full one.
He added that the people might bunch together at the gates, thus inconveniencing the nonsmokers who go through the campus entrances.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the area that would have a de facto smoking ban, if the 50-foot ban were in place. The de facto ban would be at the northeastern corner of campus, not East Campus, which would still allow smoking with this ban. Spectator regrets the error.