by Paul Bowers
The Student Senate and Faculty Senate will vote tonight on whether to recommend a tobacco ban at the College of Charleston.
The school's Board of Trustees will have the ultimate say-so on the ban, which would go into effect in the fall 2013 semester. If either Senate votes to recommend the policy tonight, the Board will take it up at a meeting later this week.
Currently, the College of Charleston allows smoking only in designated areas, including certain courtyards in dormitories. There is a specific ban on smoking within 25 feet of building entrances, as recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Under the new policy, signs would be posted announcing that the use of tobacco products is forbidden throughout the school's 52-acre downtown campus. Student Body President Erica Arbetter, a proponent of the tobacco-free policy, says the rule would not include punishments or fines, but it would allow students and campus police to ask people to stop smoking on the school's narrow sidewalks, for example. "If somebody is smoking and you are bothered by it, this gives you the credibility to say to that person, 'Just so you know, this is a tobacco-free zone,'" Arbetter says.
Arbetter, who wrote an op-ed for the campus newspaper this week on the topic, says she doesn't know how the Student Senate will react tonight. "It's making me a little bit nervous," Arbetter says. "I'm waiting for a reaction of some sort, and I just haven't gotten one. I'm interested to see how this evening plays out."
If CofC decides to go smoke-free, it will be the year's second expansion of the Charleston smoking kibosh. In what has been seen as either an affront to personal freedom or a win for public health, Charleston City Council voted Jan. 8 to outlaw smoking on public sidewalks and streets on 10 blocks around Roper Hospital and the Medical University of South Carolina.
The Student Senate meets today at 4:30 p.m. in the Stern Center Ballroom. The Faculty Senate meets at 5 p.m. in the Wells Fargo Auditorium. To see the Student Senate agenda and the proposal, click here.