Existing smoking ordinance to be enforced with fines

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Louis Hannegan, Managing Editor

In response to the recent student concerns about smoking on campus, the University of Dallas administration has decided to enforce with fines the existing Irving smoking ordinance. The current rule prohibits smoking within 25 feet of any entrance to or operable window of buildings covered by the code. No “smoking zones” will be instituted on campus as of now.

“We plan to follow the recommendation of the Student Government and begin by enforcing the City of Irving code,” said Dr. John Plotts, vice president of Enrollment and Student Affairs.

According to Campus Safety Officer Charles Steadman, the buildings on UD’s campus covered by the code are those to which the “general public has routine access.”

These include: Maher Athletic Center, Braniff Graduate Building, Blakley Library, the Church of the Incarnation, Gorman Lecture Center, the Patrick E. Haggerty Science Center, Haggar University Center, Lynch Auditorium, Carpenter Hall, the Margaret Jonsson Theater, the buildings in the Haggerty Arts Village and the public access entrances of Augustine Hall and Anselm Hall.

The code also prohibits smokingwithin 25 feet of any seating area of all the outdoor athletic facilities.

Since residence halls and the student apartments are considered “private buildings,” the 25-foot requirement does not apply to them, Steadman said.

Plotts said enforcement will begin next spring, though some details still need to be hammered out before then.

“Exactly how we plan to implement this is still under discussion,” Plotts said.  “Most likely CSO will begin with a warning period (perhaps the first month of the spring semester) and then fines for anyone who persists in violating the city ordinance.”

The amount of the fines has yet to be determined, Plotts said.

“In the interest of the health of nonsmokers (some with respiratory issues) we may expand the 25-foot rule by a few feet in some critical areas like the entrance to Haggar by the Cafeteria; again, these areas are under examination,” he emphasized.

Since the ordinance went into effect on January 1, 2007, CSO has relied on signage, the cooperation of smokers and the help of the individuals bothered by the smoke to enforce the 25-foot rule.

“An individual [bothered by smoke] should attempt to resolve the problem informally by requesting that the smoker comply with the policy,” Steadman said. “If direct appeal fails, the individual should appeal either in person or in writing to the responsible authority regarding the enforcement of the policy.”

That authority would then insure the issue is reviewed and determine whether the conflict is caused by a violation of the policy.

“If the conflict is due to a violation of the policy, the responsible authority will contact the violator(s), inform them of the violation of policy, and direct them to comply with policy,” Steadman said.

For individuals seen by a Campus Safety officer smoking in areas where it is prohibited, CSO’s policy is to inform the violator of the 25-foot rule and request them to comply voluntarily.

Repeat offenders can be or fined up to $100.

No one has ever been fined or disciplined for violation of the smoking policy, according to Steadman.

“Cooperation from smokers when requested to move away from the entrances has always been 100 percent,” Steadman said.

Despite this high level of compliance in cases where violators were asked to move, these signs have been ignored in many cases.

Some students have routinely smoked on the patio immediately outside the Cap Bar or outside the entrance to Haggar by what used to be the music department, well within 25 feet of the entrances.

Others have frequently smoked within 25 feet of the doors into Braniff, outside of which someone extinguished a cigarette on one of the signs that lists the city ordinance.

Such frequent disregard for the ordinance shaped SG’s recommendations about smoking on campus to the administration, the basis of the administration’s decision.

In a resolution presented to President Keefe and Plotts last month by Student Government President Renee Davis, Student Government recommended that, should any action be taken regarding smoking on campus, “enforcement of current city ordinance be the first solution.”

The recommendation was based on the results of the recent survey about smoking on campus. According to the resolution, the survey found that an “overwhelming majority” of students felt that “enforcement of current Irving city ordinances” would be the “best way to address concerns about smoking.”

“I think our response to the smoking issues reflects SGA’s wishes,” Plotts said.

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