The University of Maryland’s RHA Senate met on Tuesday night to discuss smoking on the campus and the body’s governing documents, as well as to informally nominate next year’s executive board.
The group voted 32-1 to pass a resolution urging Facilities Management and Residential Facilities to add more designated smoking areas on the campus. They also approved, in a 34-1 vote, a resolution reinstating the Constitutional Review Committee to evaluate some of the Residence Hall Association’s governing documents.
There are currently four designated smoking areas on the campus, according to the resolution: one near the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, one near Ellicott Hall, one near Xfinity Center and one near McKeldin Library.
Shawn Verma, the author of the bill, said having only these locations leaves South Campus and the “STEM area” — the region between the M Circle and the A.V. Williams Building that contains many of the university’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics buildings — without a place for people to smoke.
Many people have noticed employees and students on South Campus do not smoke in the designated areas, said Verma, a junior computer engineering major on the South Campus Commons area council.
“I noticed around 11 o’clock at night, I was walking to the Commons behind South Campus Dining Hall, [and] a bunch of employees exited the dining hall and immediately started [smoking],” Verma said.
Daniel Laffin, chair of the Sustainability Committee, has also noticed smoking in the South Campus area multiple times.
“I live on South Campus and I don’t complain [about smokers] because I know how much it would be to walk all the way to McKeldin to smoke, so I strongly support this resolution,” said Laffin, a sophomore government and politics major.
Some senate members, including sophomore international business and operations management and business analytics major Doron Tadmor, raised concerns that adding smoking spots would imply this university encourages smoking. Verma said the main concern now is primarily for students and employees to be smoking in the correct areas.
RHA President Dana Rodriguez, a senior finance and government and politics major, asked whether this resolution would encompass vapes and e-cigarettes. Many students use these non-lighted smoking devices, changing how effective the smoking policy is now because it defines smoking only as carrying a lighted tobacco product, Rodriguez said.
While smoking habits have changed since 2013 — when this university’s policy went into effect — the resolution will not address vape or e-cigarette concerns, Verma said.
“When the university originally pursued the smoking policy, it was to create a community for people to live freely around campus, and I would argue that has changed now,” Rodriguez said.
The senate also voted to restore its Constitutional Review Committee to examine some of the RHA’s governing documents. The body approved the resolution to create an ad hoc committee, known as ReCon, for the purpose of reviewing, updating, and discussing potential amendments to the RHA constitution, said junior economics and government and politics major Valerie Kologrivov.
The resolution does not say that changes will be made to the constitution, Kologrivov said. It aims only to start a discussion of potential future revisions, she said.
“The constitution is a governing document that is longstanding and provides longevity to our organization, so reviewing it and changing thing should also reflect that,” Kologrivov said.
After the two resolutions were passed, verbal nominations for next year’s executive board took place. Current executive board members summarized their positions, and each senator was given the chance to nominate fellow senators for executive positions.
The Senate presidential and vice presidential elections will take place on April 10, while next academic year’s full executive board will be announced May 1.