Smokers attending O-Week events on campus will need to walk to Kelburn Parade to light up, after the University once again refused to allow smoking on the Hunter Lounge balcony.
The decision to allow ‘pass-outs’ to smokers, rather than temporarily lift the campus-wide smoking ban for O-Week events, means VUWSA may be forced to pay for extra security guards to patrol the area between the venue and the designated smoking area.
The decision, originally made by Campus Services, was appealed at least three times by VUWSA and eventually reached Vice-Chancellor Grant Guilford, who upheld the decision.
VUWSA President Rick Zwaan suggested that in refusing to overturn the decision, University figures including Guilford were more interested in protecting relationships with their subordinates than with reaching the best outcome. Zwaan remains dissatisfied with the decision, claiming that “the only [University figures] who seem to support [the decision] are the ones with their names on the smoke-free policy.”
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VUWSA has concerns about whether the pass-out system will fully ensure students’ safety. Zwaan fears that if students are deprived of an easily accessible location, they may choose to flout the rules, causing more problems. “People will be aggressive in the venue or […] they’ll smoke anyway. Well, we know they’ll smoke anyway.”
Zwaan claims that in private conversations, security staff had expressed a preference for an exemption to the ban rather than pass outs, but had been unwilling to speak up in meetings with Campus Services.
Campus Services Director Jenny Bentley assured Salient that “there will be security guards on the pathway to Kelburn parade and around the smoking area and the route is well lit,” and said that pass outs account for both “the University’s commitment to being smokefree […] and our commitment to the safety and wellbeing of our students.”
The University banned smoking on all areas of campus in 2013. The ban included venues such as the Hunter Lounge and Milk and Honey. Hunter Lounge manager Jack Barber has been vocal in his opposition to the ban in the past, attributing a significant downturn in the venue’s profits to the University’s blanket no-smoking policy.
VUWSA has also been critical of the smoking ban, then-President Sonya Clark telling Salient in April 2014 that the ban “hadn’t worked”.