How does UW-Eau Claire decide what is offensive?

University regulations on smoking aren’t defending the choices of its people



A UWEC student stops to smoke in a designated area and poses before heading to their next class.

Story by Glen Olson, Chief Copy Editor

Now that Spring is in the air, some people will go out and enjoy that they can smoke cigarettes outside without getting frostbitten.

Others will stand around on campus and tell passers by that they will definitely be going to hell, either because of what they do or how they dress, or because the placard wielders don’t like their shoes. Who knows.

At the very least, all things being equal, the institution of UW-Eau Claire, and higher education in general, should be more willing to defend the choices of the people within it, be that concerning their health, their politics or any other life choices.

But, out of these oft criticized warm-weather activities, only smoking is regulated on campus.

And this is in no way a plug for smoking, or advocating rolling back smoking trends to pre-2000s.

But I would like to draw attention to the contrast.

While public opinion led school administrators to limit smoking, which, unless you’re very determined to sit in a smoker’s lap, is not likely to harm you in any way other than offending more delicate sensibilities when done outdoors.

And aforementioned limits are done despite the fact it is government owned property, something that is actually brought out as a defense of the yellers and the pamphleteers who find themselves on campus.

I can hardly speculate as to administrative thought processes, but it seems odd to limit a legal, and otherwise unobtrusive, activity while at the same time saying people must put up with being deliberately harassed.

By restricting one bothersome activity because it bothers some people, but not restricting an activity that bothers a larger group of people, the university is contradicting itself in a weird way, and making important decisions seem arbitrary and useless.

And I realize the first argument against this is placarding and yelling are free speech issues, so they can’t limit that, especially not on government property.

They would be correct, but I’m not advocating kicking anyone out of common areas on campus, just noting even in an institution that is ostensibly an advocate of choice, personal development and personal decision making in matters that are legal and don’t harm others, there is a tendency to allow the sensibilities of a large section of people dictate the actions of the community as a whole.

I feel like there may be others who would agree that ten out of ten times, I would rather walk past someone smoking than a poster whose picture reminds me unfortunately of the corned-beef hash I ate for breakfast.

If universities aren’t willing to defend the choices of their students and employees, it is just creating people who never question or decide for themselves, and that seems like the opposite of what a university should be doing.