Smoking to be banned in all campus living spaces fall 2019

Student leaders say administration used inaccurate data analysis in report

The Committee on Student Life (CSL) determined that smoking will be banned in the East Campus dormitory beginning fall 2019.

With the closure of Senior House last summer, East Campus’ 4W and 5E halls are the only undergraduate living spaces on campus where smoking is currently allowed. CSL’s report on the matter found that no other universities allow smoking in dormitory rooms.

The report called for an increase in smoking discouragement and cessation programs both in East Campus and in other dorms, as well as designated smoking areas out of doors.

The move to ban smoking comes nearly over a year after CSL began meeting with residents of Senior House and East Campus in the fall of 2016. East Campus president Allie Stanton ’18 announced the committee’s decision in an email to dorm residents Nov. 13, though at that time the parties had yet to finalize when the ban would be instated.

CSL used a 2010 survey by The Tech to support its findings, but these results were outdated and had a low response rate, Stanton said in an interview with The Tech. East Campus leadership conducted its own survey, which found that seven percent of residents in the dorm smoked.

Stanton noted that although the floors allow and accept smoking, they attempt to educate their members about the dangers of smoking and avoid peer pressuring non-smokers into participating. Even before the decision, Stanton had been working with MIT Medical to provide smoking cessation aids to the dorm.

CSL’s report acknowledged this behavior as positive, but cited a lack of decline in the number smoking rooms in the decision to ban smoking.

Stanton said the report’s claim that the number of smoking rooms in the dorm was not decreasing was inaccurate because not every room on a smoking hall is considered a smoking room.

“At the end of the day, we’re disappointed with the result, but … we at least were brought to the table and got to share our side of the story,” Stanton said.

5E hall chair Sarah Pohorecky ’19, in an email to The Tech on behalf of the affected floors, likewise expressed gratitude to CSL for including the affected students in the debate. However, she shared Stanton’s opinion that the data CSL used to make the decision was inaccurate and out of date.

The Tech’s survey “included opinions from students across MIT and did not properly represent the views of current and past members of our halls,” Pohorecky wrote. She noted that CSL rejected the students’ suggestion that it run a new survey, and although East Campus was eventually able to run its survey which “confirmed our belief that CSL's claims about impacts on nonsmokers were incorrect,” the results “did little to change [the administration’s] stance on removing smoking.”

“We are disappointed that DSL decided to revoke our smoking rights instead of encouraging smoking cessation through education and resources,” Pohorecky wrote, adding that the floors had the impression that the administration “came to the meetings with their decision already made.”

Both Stanton and Pohorecky remarked on the importance of self-governance to the affected parallels.

“I don’t think smoking is an integral part of 4W and 5E, but I think personal freedom is,” Stanton said. “It’s really about the ability to choose.”