To Clarify: I Don't Smoke

Nor do I think it’s a good idea to regulate gluttony in the Great Hall.

However, I would like to expand on my question from Monday’s town hall. (And I’m hoping to see another article expanding on pineapples vs. ninjas.)

Contract’s restriction of smoking exists under the pretense that it protects student health. However, it goes beyond simply establishing a smoke-free campus—an idea with which I have no problems. The smoking policy is a complete prohibition, reaching beyond the well-being of the community and into the personal lives of a student.

Looking at other parts of contract, this level of health intervention is unprecedented. With the exception of alcohol—which is prohibited because of its on-campus effects even when consumed off-campus—the administration wisely avoids dictating our every personal health decision. Students are not required to be in good shape. Their diets are not regulated in the Great Hall. They’re not even required to maintain good hygiene! This is because students are trusted to maintain their own lives—and sometimes a little deviation from “good health” is really needed to maintain your own sanity.

There is no logical reason that tobacco warrants such a deviation from this understanding between the administration and students. Tobacco, while dangerous, can be consumed in moderation—just ask any Covenant professor in a tweed jacket. Therefore, I don’t really raise this issue because I want to smoke. I raise it because of a much greater threat.

My concern is how the presence of this prohibition impacts the way students conceive of contract. If students understand the reasoning behind rules, they are more likely to respect and obey the rulebook. However, when there is an inconsistency in the logic of that rulebook, it becomes far easier to disrespect the rulebook as a whole and the authorities that produced it.

This effect is most easily seen in the 1920s, which saw a different kind of prohibition. The US government’s asinine ban on alcohol caused most citizens to lose respect for the government, resulting in a renown era of lawlessness and crime.

Tobacco may currently be a non-issue to Covenant’s board and administration, but its prohibition is an overstep that cheapens the value of authority and undermines the relationship between students and administration. So while our campus tours may imply that the tunnels of Carter Hall served as heroic refuge from an overbearing government, we’d be wise to remember how the logic of a rule (or lack thereof) can change our entire community.