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College Row

Dormitories to be entirely smoke-free

In many ways, dormitory life at Amherst College is the same as it has long been—roof-raising parties, frantic study sessions, philosophical debates that last into the wee hours of the morning. But a new policy ensures that one aspect of dormitory tradition will disappear. In an e-mail to all students on Nov. 18, President Anthony W. Marx announced the expansion of an indoor-smoking ban to include all campus buildings, including dormitories, starting with the Spring 2004 semester.

“As you know,” Marx wrote to students, “all of our dormitories are now smoke-free in public areas, and several dormitories are designated as smoke-free even in private rooms. I have decided to prohibit smoking in private rooms in all the dorms because of my concern about the health problems caused by direct and second-hand smoke and my desire to do all we can to ensure the long-term health of all of our students.”

According to The Amherst Student, Marx’s decision came after a parent asked about smoking in residential buildings during a Family Weekend forum. The prohibition, which was supported by the College Council (a committee of faculty, students and administrators), is in line with the policies of most of the other members of the Five College consortium (according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges and the University of Massachusetts have all adopted similar policies in the past three years). Marx’s

e-mail, which came two days before the American Cancer Society’s annual Great American Smokeout (a national event designed to encourage people to quit smoking), also announced a smoking-cessation program being offered by the Student Health Service. The program will provide nicotine patches to interested students in combination with individual counseling.

Student response was swift and impassioned. Some lashed out at the decision, both in newspaper articles and in online forums. Complaining about the notion of smoking outdoors during the winter, junior Daniel Graves told the Gazette, “This is complete and utter nonsense, and totally unfair.”

But others supported the new policy on smoke-free dorms. “I tend to think that my right to breathe takes precedence over any other person’s desire to smoke in his or her room,” senior Solomon Granor was quoted as saying in the Gazette. Senior Jerry Hilinski agreed. “Smokers object to being put in an uncomfortable situation,” Hilinski says, “but they don’t realize that every time they light up inside a dorm, they might be making other students even more uncomfortable.”

—Rebecca Louick ’04

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