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Smoking Ban To Impact Dorms

By Lauren E. LeBon


Smoking is no longer permitted in public spaces of student dormitories, in accordance with the newly established smoking ban in Cambridge.

According to Section 8.28.090 of the Cambridge Municipal Code, as of Oct. 1 private student rooms are the only acceptable areas for smoking in a university dormitory, and only then if the dormitory allows smoking and all of residents of the room request in writing for their room to allow smoking.

Overseers of a building are required by Cambridge law to prominently post “No Smoking” signs in areas where smoking is not permitted. Lounges and hallways in MacGregor, Bexley, East Campus, and Senior House, where smoking was once allowed in public spaces, now display “No Smoking” signs.

While large lounges are clearly public spaces and student rooms are clearly private spaces, many are unsure whether the rules apply to suite common rooms.

Contracts Counsel Margaret W. Brill, a member of MIT Senior Counsel’s office, interpreted the Cambridge ordinance for the MIT community. Brill said that the rules governing smoking in suite common spaces would be left to the interpretation of house managers and housemasters.

Denise A. Vallay of the Housing Office said she was not sure about the smoking policy for suite lounges, but believed that it may be allowed. Rebecca A. Masterson G, a graduate residence tutor at Bexley Hall, was also not sure of the policy, but believed that suite common rooms are fair game since they can be locked as private spaces.

Assistant Director of Housing Operations Carl A. Seagran also was not sure of the policy since it is not specifically outlined in the Cambridge ordinance.

Suite common rooms, which are features of Bexley Hall, Senior House, and Burton-Conner, are spaces that are shared by residents of a small group of dormitory rooms. In Bexley Hall, some common rooms double as hallways between different areas of the dormitory.

Jessica E. Hinel ’05, a deskworker at Senior House, said that the house manager had not informed residents about whether or not smoking was permitted in suite common rooms. Hinel said that Senior House residents researched the City Council ruling themselves, and decided on their own to allow smoking in suites.

“As long as we don’t make a big deal about it, we can do it on the sly and no one will care,” Hinel said.

Director of Housing Karen A. Nilsson, who sent an e-mail to housemasters about the new policy changes, is on medical leave and could not be reached for comment.

Students respond to smoking ban

Student responses to the smoking ban have been mixed across campus.

Hinel said that Senior House residents are “mostly against” the smoking ban. She said that residents have placed several signs around the dormitory in protest, such as the red “No Smoking” sign symbol in the shape of a swastika.

“People see it as a hassle,” said John M. Glowa ’07, a resident of Senior House. Glowa said that since the ban has gone into effect “no one really enforces it.”

Anjuli J. Willmer ’07, a resident of Bexley Hall, is for the smoking ban.

“I like not having to worry about whether the lounge is going to be all smokey,” Willmer said.

“There have been some people against [the ban], but I think those places should be open to everyone, especially people like me who are sensitive to the smell,” he said.

Christopher H. Yim, a resident of East Campus, said he had never heard about the smoking ban, and had not received an e-mail from his housemaster about the changes to dormitory policy. His hall in East Campus did not allow smoking before Oct. 1.

Penalties for smoking violations

Associate Dean of Student Discipline Steve Tyrell said that most smoking ban violations are dealt with by the dormitory community. As such, he has received very few complaints about smoking violations.

For example, if a student is smoking in a dormitory lounge, a graduate residence tutor can ask the student to move into their private room, especially since many students are still not aware of the ban.

If a student ignores these suggestions, then a house’s judicial committee or housemasters could help to resolve the situation. If these measures do not work, then a student can file a discipline complaint, Tyrell said. A discipline committee will hold a hearing to decide on a proper punishment for those who consistently ignore the smoking ban.

Cambridge passed ban in June

The Cambridge City Council voted to establish a smoking ban in all public spaces in the city, including bars and restaurants, this June. The ban took effect on Oct. 1.

The ban in Cambridge came shortly after similar anti-smoking laws were passed in Boston and Somerville.