LUCC voted against making Plantz Hall smoke free Tuesday after a long round of questions and concerns voiced both by representatives and the Lawrence community. The validity of a survey taken by the Residence Life Committee was a key factor in the decision. Earlier in the year, the Residence Life Committee took a survey in Downer Commons concerning student preferences for smoke-free housing.
Sixty-eight percent of the respondents preferred smoke free housing. Twenty-three percent of the respondents were smokers, and only 12 percent of those smokers preferred housing that allowed smoking inside.
One question raised by both the community and LUCC was whether the survey was well advertised. Other questions raised were whether Downer Commons was a good location for the survey and whether the wording of the survey might have led students to believe that their responses would help decide which, if any, residence hall might be made smoke-free.
Megan Brown, a member of the Residence Life Committee, explained that the question of making Plantz smoke-free was related not only to the survey responses (although respondents did prefer that Plantz be smoke-free), but primarily to concerns about incoming freshmen.
Brown explained that incoming freshmen have shown strong preferences for smoke-free housing, which the university cannot provide at this time.
Taking into account the closing of Brokaw and the opening of the new residence hall, Heitt Hall (which will be smoke-free), 51 percent of university living space is smoke free. With a smoke-free Plantz, 62% of university housing would be smoke-free.
Brown explained that the Residence Life Committee also proposed Plantz as a possible smoke-free residence hall for other reasons. Sage was immediately out of consideration because Heitt Hall will provide suite-style living in a smoke-free environment, thus narrowing the choice to Plantz or Trever Hall.
Plantz Hall is the closest to the Conservatory, and houses a number of voice students. Plantz residents have also voiced more complaints about smoke than Trever residents. Plantz has had more recent changes, making it easier to clean out the smoke smell there than from Trever.
However, Aaron Lund, LUCC representative for Plantz Hall, responded that the only constituents that approached him were students in favor of keeping Plantz a smoking residence.
Members of the Lawrence community also stated that students who wanted smoke-free housing, especially sophomores, could not get it, even if they needed it for health reasons, such as smoke allergies.
Although some attempts were made to postpone the vote until a community forum could be held or another survey taken, both Brown and president Cole DeLaney strenuously objected.
Brown’s objection was that incoming freshmen had to know soon whether Plantz is smoke-free so that they could make an informed housing decision.
DeLaney simply remarked that “postponing this is a slippery slope.”
Before the Plantz Hall vote, Delaney tried to make a constitutional change that would require issues such as smoke-free housing to be subject to a binding referendum. The council voted the change down.
Instead of an LUCC committee bringing forth the issue for LUCC to vote on, students would have the opportunity to collect 150 signatures on a petition, which would then allow students and faculty to vote on the issue.
DeLaney said that the issue of a smoke-free dorm “lends itself very well to direct democracy.”
Several LUCC representatives took issue with DeLaney’s proposed change. Among them was Greg Hahnel, who was concerned that such a referendum would be “displacing a lot of LUCC power.”
Kass Kuehl also objected that faculty and students living off-campus would be voting on “something that has nothing to do with them.”
Ed Johnson, standing as proxy for Bill Hanna, believed that a referendum would be a “logistical” difficulty, because it is so easy to collect 150 signatures on a petition.
There would be a constant stream of referenda, and there would be many additional hours of work for the members of LUCC.
Jaques Haquebord, LUCC president-elect, was particularly concerned that smoking was not a good issue for a referendum due to strong personal opinions on the subject.
Haquebord also mentioned that, given the number of smokers on campus, it would be impossible for them to get the 51 percent vote on a referendum necessary to keep smoking in halls, saying, “I just think we need to be very conscious of minority rights.”
DeLaney responded that, “LUCC is an imperfect medium for dealing with this issue,” calling attention to past LUCC voting inconsistencies about smoke-free buildings.
“It’s going to come up again and again until enough Yahtzee rolls happen,” DeLaney said, to make Plantz a non-smoking dorm.