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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

EDITORIAL A Worthy Cause, Poorly Executed and Seeing Where We Lack

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A Worthy Cause, Poorly Executed

On Thursday, Middlebury College will open its doors to the American Cancer Society for that organization's "National Smoke-Out Day." The event, which is aimed to help cigarette smokers quit smoking, is the latest in a campaign to change the College's smoking policy.
Though well-intentioned, this campaign is flawed for two reasons. First, the drive — called the "Campaign for a Smoke-Free Middlebury" — was launched in conjunction with the American Cancer Society. By bringing an outside organization into the College to fund student interns and campaign organizers, Middlebury's Residential Systems Office has diluted the organic potential of the campaign and further alienated students who have made the decision to smoke, thus greatly reducing the efficacy and inclusive nature of the drive. Should the College continue its partnership with the American Cancer Society, the campaign to change Middlebury's smoking policy risks taking on the voice of self-righteousness of so many anti-smoking campaigns, a fact that will rile smokers and quickly become tenuous to students who do not smoke.
Second, the current Handbook language on smoking is sufficient enough to maintain a balance between the College's commitment to a healthy environment and tolerance of those who chose to smoke. The language, which can be found on page 38 of the Handbook, stipulates that "all areas in the College are smoke free, with the exception of residential space. Students may smoke in their rooms, provided it is mutually agreeable to their roommate/s and to those affected in adjacent areas." Though permitting smoking in rooms or suites, the policy forbids it in "lounges, hallways, stairwells, bathrooms, or other public areas in student residences."
If a student wants to smoke in his or her room, he or she should be allowed to do so, provided that he or she has sought the approval of those that live around him or her. If a student living nearby the smoker disapproves, that person can seek recourse, either by appealing to the individual smoker, the Residential Systems Coordinator or higher authorities in the Dean of Student Affairs Office. Such coexistence may be disagreeable to some, but it has worked well and, if it needs to be changed, such a push should come from within the College.

Seeing Where We Lack
Professor of Biology David Parfitt and students in his Neural Disorders: Individuals, Families and Societies class should be applauded for their work on this week's campaign to raise awareness of the difficulties students with physical disabilities face navigating the Middlebury College campus.
The campaign, which began Monday, offers members of the College community the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of what it's like to move about the campus in a wheelchair, and will provide plenty of opportunities for discussion in an array of panels and informal discussions.
Gaining this knowledge is important, and one hopes that it will form the basis for a broader — and critical — discussion on how the College designs its physical plant. An article in last week's Campus demonstrated the shortcomings of many College buildings or facilities; this week's campaign will indubitably generate momentum enough to change those shortcomings, and offer viable solutions for how to do so.