Amid concerns, LUCC bans smoking in union, approves theme houses

Helen Exner

LUCC ruled at the Tuesday, May 15 meeting that with the exception of the Viking Room, the student union will become smoke-free, effective first term next year. The council also denied a petition to add another house to the theme house pool, and passed a motion to amend the constitution’s voting regulations. Supporters of the motion to make the union smoke-free maintained that many students would enjoy having more study space. The dominant concerns of these debaters, however, were health issues. Dean Nancy Truesdell said that for employees of the union, smoking in Riverview poses clear health risks. Associate Dean of Student Activities Paul Shrode added that at public universities, all buildings are smoke-free. Shrode also noted that new employees at Lawrence are often surprised to encounter Riverview’s smoking environment. Representative Julie Stroinski said, “Smoking is a privilege, not a right.”

Representative Cole Delaney replied that smoking should not be abolished simply because it is a privilege, protesting, “We weren’t elected by staff members.” He continued, “It’s reckless [to vote now],” noting that several council members admitted earlier in the meeting that they had not consulted their constituents recently on the issue. Representative Heidi Romancek warned against making twenty-one the on-campus smoking age by restricting smoking to the Viking Room. Several council members disagreed with that argument, noting that smoking rooms are present in several dorms.

Representative Matt Gray asked Shrode about the possibility of using the VR as a smoking site during the day. Shrode said a recent estimate of the cost of modifying the VR came to $20,000. State law would require the on-campus bar to notify the police and keep alcohol out of the reach of minors when students under twenty-one were smoking in the VR during the day. Gray stated that students who oppose the prospect of a smoke-free union should “Get used to it…for me it’s a no-brainer.” The issue was not open for general discussion for the Lawrence students that attended the meeting to debate the issue. The council then passed the motion to ban smoking everywhere in the union except the VR during regular operation hours.

LUCC also heard an appeal from SOAR (Special Olympic/Athletic Refuge), a student group that was turned down for a theme house. Amy Dendi, a member of SOAR, argued that the group’s proposal appeals to the whole campus and not just a select group of athletes. The central purpose of the house would be helping freshmen athletes adjust to college life while serving as an academic and social center. Coach Amy Proctor from Alexander Gym spoke on the group’s behalf, saying, “I’m very careful who I go to bat for.” She said that SOAR’s members wanted to “bridge the gap between athletics and academics on this campus,” providing an “athletic refuge” for students balancing sports and schoolwork. Dendi concluded the appeal by asking that the council add another theme house, which was denied by the council.

Resident Life Committee member Adam Bramm reminded SOAR that small houses are “prime real estate,” and in recent Lawrence history, the number of small houses has stayed at three or four. The four theme houses selected this year are the Music Performance House, At-Risk Outreach House, EARTH House, and ORIC House, currently known as the ORC House. Representative Gray suggested that another house be added to the pool, possibly for the benefit of SOAR, and that the Residence Life Committee decide on allocation. Other members protested, however. Delaney declared that adding more houses to the theme house pool “would be a logistical nightmare.” He continued that although he personally liked SOAR’s proposal, they don’t need the housing space. Representative Pete Stevens agreed, saying that LUCC should avoid “micro-management.” Gray continued his argument by pointing to the “growing interest in group housing.” He suggested that the council explore the issue next year, perhaps by adding another house to the current four in the pool.

In other business, pet legislation was tabled indefinitely, and the council granted a request for $600 to the Electronic Music Club. The funds will pay for seven deejays at an outdoor concert in June.