ISS: Students express concerns about potential smoking ban, post office closures

_Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated that Keenan Kassar, Ryan Young, Dennis Crawford and Jim Maskeri are student trustees. Young, Crawford and Maskeri are student senators and Kassar is a former student senator. Additionally, Indiana University was referred to as University of Indiana. This article has been corrected._

The potential referendum question about a campus smoking ban is raising many questions among students. The Illinois Student Senate, or ISS, discussed the possibility of a smoke-free campus and the effect it would have on the student body at its regular meeting Wednesday.

The goal of the referendum is to protect non-smokers, as described in a letter by Keenan Kassar, former student senator and sophomore in DGS, who is involved in the Smoke-Free Campus Initiative.

“The issue really is about secondhand smoke,” Keenan said in the letter. “Even a small amount (of smoke) can have physiological effects.”

Ryan Young, student senator and junior in LAS, said he is wary of the initiative because of how quickly it is proceeding. In order for the issue to be on the ballot, 3,000 signatures are due by Friday. The referendum will be voted on Nov. 8 and 9. Young explained that this is not enough time for students to voice their thoughts on the issue.

“Things might be moving a little too quick,” he said.

Kassar’s letter urged the senate not to worry about complications in implementation of a smoke-free campus. The University of Michigan and Indiana University–Bloomington have recently become smoke-free campuses, and Kassar assured ISS that these schools did not have problems implementing the program.

Dennis Crawford, student senator and sophomore in engineering, explained that regardless of the outcome of the referendum, one group will still feel ignored: either the people hoping to smoke on campus or those avoiding secondhand smoke.

“There will be a minority that needs to be protected, no matter what the vote is,” Crawford said.

Crawford also warned the ISS that this vote could polarize the campus.

“It’s going to be the smokers voting against it, and the non-smokers voting for it,” he said.

The ISS has not yet declared a position on the issue.

In addition to the potential smoking ban on campus, ISS also discussed the United States Postal Service’s decision to close two offices on campus. The postal service plans to close the post office in Altgeld Hall and the office on Third and Green streets in Champaign. Jim Maskeri, student senator and junior in LAS, encouraged his fellow senators to write to a postal service representative encouraging them to keep the Altgeld office open, despite their budgetary concerns.

“Keeping the Altgeld office open will be beneficial to our constituents,” Maskeri said.