News and Analysis


Bradley Dlatt

Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012 3:40 p.m.

Voters will weigh in on smoke-free policy

Graduate students Neela Satyanarayana and Jahmeilia Paul spoke to the Student Association Senate Monday, urging senators to pass a ballot referendum considering smoke-free building entrances. Michael Boosalis | Hatchet Photographer

A campus smoking policy will be put to a student vote next week, the Student Association Senate decided at its meeting Monday night.

Senators voted to add a ballot referendum about a proposed 25-foot smoking ban around campus buildings, brought to the SA by the student wellness group Colonials for Clean Air.

The ballot measure would have no policy effect and would only allow the SA to gauge student opinion before supporting the cause.

The organization has lobbied University administrators since last fall urging them to take up their “25 feet for health” campaign.

“We want to get students to rally around this cause,” Tameila Paul, a graduate student and member of Colonials for Clean Air, said to the senate.

GW’s smoking policy, which is up for review in May 2012, allows buildings to enforce smoking restrictions near entrances if there are “concerns over air quality or the presence of combustible materials.”

No GW buildings currently implement this policy.

Senators rattled off questions about imposing the rule on non-University property like sidewalks and streets, and the feasibility of enforcement on campus. The pair said their group was looking at “best practices” at universities with similar policies, and would talk to the University about possible ways to uphold the rules.

Sen. Bradley Dlatt, CCAS-G, rebuked the policy for being “absolutely” unenforceable, but called on senators to give students the opportunity to decide themselves.

Another member who spoke on behalf of Colonials for Clean Air,  Neela Satyanarayana, stressed the group was not taking aim at “smokers’ rights,” and explained any smoke-free barrier around buildings would be somewhat flexible depending on that area.

“We know people aren’t going to count 25 feet and move away from the doors. But we at least want to get them to step away from the doors,”  Satyanarayana said.

The SA also unanimously approved nearly $14,000 of spending as part of its midyear allocations bill. The funding bill included $4,500 to continue free daily delivery of the New York Times for students. The free newspaper program was slashed this fall, springing up pushback within the SA. Sen. Michael Amesquita, G-GSEHD, and Rohan Batra, SA vice president of academic affairs, looked at various options before deciding to continue its New York Times daily paper deal.

Amesquita, who contacted more than a dozen other schools with a free daily paper program, said most paid for it using student activity funds.

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The Student Association Leadership Committee called a recess to vet Joint Elections Committee appointees, selected by SA President John Richardson, at Monday's Senate meeting. Avra Bossov | Hatchet photographer

The Student Association Leadership Committee clashed with President John Richardson over his nominees for the election-oversight body in a rare display of discord at Monday’s SA Senate meeting.

Senators rejected one of Richardson’s three appointees for the Joint Elections Commission, which will enforce the body’s charter in next spring’s campaign.

Senate Pro Tempore and chair of the leadership committee, Bradley Dlatt, CCAS-G, called out Richardson during the meeting for his solo selection of “three of the most coveted slots in student government.”

Dlatt said in the past, the rules committee, restructured into the leadership committee last fall, was able to weigh in on the candidates two or three weeks before the president announced his nominees to the full senate. The graduate student, who served as the senate’s chief of staff last year, said he found out the candidates only minutes before the meeting.

“In past, JEC has made large election decisions, including removing presidential candidates. I would suggest the people in this room seriously,” Dlatt said.

Richardson shot back, “This is something I probably should have spoken to you about, unfortunately we haven’t had a meeting in three weeks.”

Sophomores Shiah Shahmohammadi and Gordon Pera were confirmed by wide margins as the SA’s representatives to the JEC. Freshman Alexandra Puig was voted down in a 9-8 Senate vote, after senators expressed concerns she did not understand the election process.

Sen. John Bennett, U-At Large, asked Puig if she had read the JEC charter and Dlatt asked what she thought the JEC did. Puig said she understood that the JEC enforced the charter, but had not read the document.

Other senators argued an appointee did not need to be familiar with past years’ elections.

“I would prefer that someone not see what a crazy, bureaucratic, toolish process looks like,” Sen. Eric Arpert, CCAS-U, said. “We need someone with common sense to come in and say ‘that is ridiculous.'”

Shahmohammadi, communications director for College Democrats, said she would be able to attract more voters by promoting the election. She denied her involvement in the organization, which endorses a candidate, would influence her as a JEC member.

Pera, who ran for a CCAS senator position last spring, served as a leadership committee aide and was familiar with the “minutia” of the charter. He said as a JEC member, he would uphold “the spirit of the election and the spirit of the SA” by keeping the elections fair and honest.

The senate passed a new JEC charter for the spring 2012 elections. Dlatt said the most significant difference is that potential candidates need to reach a signature quota – presidential candidates must collect 250 signatures and executive vice presidential candidates must collect 125 – rather than a percentage of the student body they would be representing.

The SA Senate also unanimously approved a resolution of support for vending machines in Gelman Library.  The bill was sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Kennedy, ESIA-U, who described the efforts as “a very basic thing” that could help out students when they’re studying. SA resolutions are non-binding.

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