It is perfectly acceptable for Attorney General John Ashcroft to take away some basic individuals’ rights to their privacy as long as it is in the interest of keeping the majority of Americans “safe.” Very few members of the Lawrence community would agree with this statement. In fact, several may be outraged, and may even have, while reading this editorial, come up with a list of reasons why this statement is, in fact, outrageous.
Indulge us, for just a moment, as we rephrase this statement. It is perfectly acceptable for Lawrence University to take away the basic individual right of choice as long as it is in the interest of keeping the majority of Lawrentians “safe.” Now, maybe, you are still outraged at this statement. Maybe, just maybe, you are producing yet another list of rights that Lawrence has disposed of this year.
Among those rights is smoking. Maybe, if you are not a smoker, your brain pauses for a second. Smoking? Well, that is potentially harmful to other people. The anti-smoking initiatives that Lawrence has taken are good, right? Everyone should be entitled to good health.
John Ashcroft would most likely agree whole-heartedly with this line of thinking. But what happens to individual choice when it is compromised for the health of the “majority,” which, let’s face it, is never very clearly defined and, in most cases, does not proportionately represent the views of the whole.
The temperature has been below zero for several weeks. And yet, the smoking halo must be enforced. Never mind that individuals who smoke have elected to do so of their own free will and should certainly be allowed to exercise that right. Never mind that individuals who smoke are ostracized from virtually every non-residence hall on campus (with the exception of the Viking Room, which only over twenty-year-olds have access to). Never mind that when it is below zero, the only refuge that smokers can take is fifteen feet away from any respective building. It makes sense, doesn’t it? No one should have to deal with the evil smokers and the ill effects their reprehensible habit brings with it.
Don’t you think that we, as learned individuals of a liberal arts community, should be able to reach some sort of compromise on this issue? On one hand, the smokers on campus have the right to smoke. Obviously. On the other hand, non-smokers on campus have the right to not have their health threatened by smoke. Clearly. So why not revisit this issue and discuss ways in which we can, in fact, reach a compromise. How about a “smoker’s” entrance to Main Hall–then all the non-smokers can have THREE non-smoking entrances all to themselves? How about making a residence hall lounge–just ONE lounge–available to smokers on the three respective “sides” of campus?
Do not be a “John Ashcroft.” Consider, instead, the views of the whole, instead of the “majority.” Do not leave the members of this community who choose to exercise their rights out in the cold.