UA debates possible campus smoking ban

· February 15, 2011, 1:53 am   ·  Updated February 15, 2011, 12:00 am

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Sunday night, the Undergraduate Assembly debated a proposal to create a tobacco-free campus.

Although deliberation over next year’s UA budget consumed much of Sunday night’s meeting, the PennDoes discussion paper — in which College freshman and Associate UA member Dan Bernick inquired about how to approach the problem of creating a tobacco-free campus — garnered the group’s attention.

Smoking on campus has become a frequent topic of debate at many colleges. Penn currently bans smoking within 20 feet of campus buildings, and Columbia University passed an initiative in December in a similar effort. Yale University is considering joining 500 other United States colleges in becoming smoke-free.

Bernick addressed the UA body with many questions about how to research and understand such an influential initiative.

College sophomore and UA member Jake Shuster asked the body to consider how to define Penn’s campus.

“[We] can’t tell people to not smoke in the city streets,” Shuster said.

College senior and UA member Emerson Brooking, who is a former Daily Pennsylvanian columnist, also asked the UA body to examine whom this initiative would affect.

“[I would] like to think that the UA can take a stance on this,” Brooking said, however, he added that “the UA is just one stakeholder.”

He cited Penn employees as the main constituent that would be affected by this ban and urged the UA body to consider them as well.

Some UA members contested the UA’s right to even take a position on a campus-wide smoking ban.

College freshman and UA member Ernest Owens explained that “if I was paying that much to go to the school, [I’m] not sure I would want the school to tell me what to do in my leisure time.”

College senior and UA member Mo Shahin also said it is “not clear that [smoking] should be banned.”

Bernick, however, emphasized that the UA is still “in the exploratory phase” of such a discussion.

The UA also passed a resolution that approved sending a letter to the Office of the Provost which requests that they match the UA’s $10,000 for PennApps Labs in the 2011-2012 UA budget.

The Provost’s Office previously matched UA funding for the New York Times Readership Program. However, the UA decided to stop funding the initiative in 2010 due to rising costs and lagging readership numbers.

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