By Michael B. Murphy
On Tuesday, April 1, during an open forum, Interim President Robert Martin said he was willing to have a “discussion” with students on whether Framingham State University should establish a designated smoking zone on campus despite the University’s tobacco-free policy.
Martin, who fielded questions from students in the Alumni Room, said he and the other members of the administration have been asked by those who live in the area surrounding campus to “deal with the ramifications of our tobacco policy.”
Though he said he is “proud” about how successful the tobacco-free mandate has been thus far, Martin admitted the zero-tolerance policy has created problems for FSU’s neighbors.
“If you’re observant, you’ll have seen that the problem has been pushed oL to the corners of the campus. We have good neighbors, but when that happens, they get on the phone and call us,” he said.
Martin said the University has received multiple complaints from neighbors concerning students and faculty smoking and discarding cigarette butts on their property. He added that the areas of Church Street and near the Athletic Center are the most heavily frequented by FSU smokers.
“It’s problematic,” he said. “I’m honestly kind of perplexed as to what to do about it.
“I’ll speak frankly,” Martin said. “I want the campus to remain tobacco free – that’s not up for discussion. ... But what is in discussion is whether or not we should have a spot where smokers [can smoke] that is on campus and out of the way.”
One student in attendance said he believed the patio area between the Whittemore Library and the Doyle Technology Center would be an ideal site for a designated smoking location.
“It’s out of the way and I don’t think it would cause much of a disturbance to people,” the student said.
Martin said he was concerned how some would perceive the creation of a designated smoking location.
“If we find a place somewhere on campus where [smokers] can go, is that an acknowledgement of defeat?” he asked.
Another student agreed with the creation of a designated smoking location because she has seen many students still smoking on campus.
“You kind of feel uncomfortable because you don’t want to say to them, ‘Hey, you shouldn’t be smoking on campus,’” she said.
“It’s inevitable that people are still going to smoke, so I think there should be some place that they can go.”
The issue of limited bandwidth on campus was also discussed.
Hayley Olmsted, a senior psychology major, expressed her frustrations about FSU’s WiFi to Martin.
A resident of Horace Mann, Olmsted said her floor has no router, and even the Ethernet service is slow.
“A lot of residents are upset about not having enough WiFi or the Ethernet wasn’t working enough for them to complete their homework,” Olmstead said. She added when she contacted the IT department for help, “They told me there was nothing they could do.”
Executive Vice President Dale Hamel, who was also at the open forum, said there are plans to increase the WiFi in all dorms after a successful “pilot program” in North Hall was completed.
“[The WiFi upgrade in North Hall] expanded the number of WiFi [access] points by four times from what was in there,” Hamel said. “Over the next few summers, we’ll be taking that same system and upgrading the other residence halls as well.”
Hamel said North Hall was updated before other residence halls because, unlike the other dormitories, North Hall did not offer Ethernet.
Martin said, “The use [of bandwidth] has grown exponentially with not just academic use, social media use, but tremendous amounts of downloading – videos, music.
“A part of it is that the University tries to take a hands-oL approach to how [students] use the Internet, but the other side of the coin is if you have a hands-oL policy, then you’re going to have all sorts of uses.” Martin said nonacademic use of the internet sometimes interferes with bandwidth that would ideally be used for academics.
“I don’t know how to solve that other than, over the long term, try and create more bandwidth.”