Changes coming for dorm smoking

Though law student Joe Mills has recently brought Northern Kentucky University’s smoking policy into the spotlight, University Housing Director Matt Brown has been working behind the scenes to draft smoking policy changes for residents.

Beginning fall semester 2006, all residential housing will be non-smoking and residents will have to stand at least 20 feet away from any residential building to smoke.

According to Brown, less than 10 apartments are currently designated as smoking rooms.

“The issue for me on this is safety,” Brown said. “It’s not fair for other students to have to live with a (fire) risk.”

The other smoking policy change also is designed for safety reasons. Brown said the new policy will help maintain clear doorways and windows as well as keep students from having to walk through smoke to enter any buildings.

In order to effectively implement this rule, however, Brown said that University Housing would have to create better smoking areas in the areas outside of the buildings.

“We plan to have the areas ready by the fall of 2006,” he said.

Brown said the enforcement of the policy will be similar to noise-complaints.

“It’s going to be up to the (residential assistants) to remind students,” Brown said. “We’re going to rely on community enforcement.”

Brown said students who violate the policy will face a fine of $50.

“We don’t like to fine students,” he said. “We’re not going to walk (the 20 feet) off…and we’re not going to get out tape measures.”

Brown said that University Housing is trying to meet the needs of non-smoking students while also being respectful and aware that a large percent of students smoke.

The policy would be more lenient on rainy and snowy days, Brown said, as students will not have a place to stand to avoid getting wet. On those days, students will be asked to not stand directly in front of doorways and windows.

“We came up with a policy that is based on common courtesy,” he said.

Students who smoke are showing mixed feelings about the policy change.

Rob Firestone, junior graphic design major, said that the change is a good thing. Even though he smokes, he thinks that smokers should “be respectful of other’s wishes.”

He feels that the new policy will be difficult to enforce. Firestone, who works for University Housing, said when he has asked people who are smoking in doorways to move further from the building, they have given him a hard time.

Freshman journalism major Anna Harrod said that the policy change “seems pointless.” She attributes her feelings about the change to the fact that she is a smoker.

University Housing also announced that the number of returning students who want to live on campus will be limited beginning fall 2006. Brown said that University Housing will only allow 550 students to remain living in the dorms due to the high demand of housing for first-year students.

University Housing considered tripling spaces by putting three students in rooms where typically two students lived, but decided against it.

“We don’t want to make students live like that,” Brown said.

Last year, a record number of 624 students returned to live on campus. Brown said that by setting the limit at 550, it would leave enough spaces for upperclassmen to reserve spaces as well as leave room for new students.

“The returning students who make their mind up (to stay on campus) before the spring semester ends will get a room,” Brown said. “With the growing demand of first-year students wanting to live on campus, (University Housing) had to react to that.”

University Housing has a maximum bed capacity of 1,400, but do not allow more than 1,350 students to register to live on campus. The last 50 spaces are held for international students as well as out-of-state students who would not be able to commute.

“It’s a hard decision to tell students who already live here that they can’t live here because we anticipate a high number of new students,” Brown said.

Brown said with the number of construction projects already in the works at NKU, the addition of new housing will have to be put on hold. Student housing will have to be maintained in this same way until NKU is able to construct new dorms.

“New housing is going to happen. It’s just a matter of time,” he said.

Brown hopes by the fall of 2008, NKU will be able to offer new housing to students. He said that officials have also discussed the option of offering housing for married couples.

“(Married housing) is an area that we’re lacking and NKU will have to address in the future, but have no immediate plans,” Brown said.