A response to information presented in “’U’ officials outline plan to carry out smoking ban”, January 23, 2011, in the Michigan Daily.
The campus-wide smoking initiative has been a source of controversy since President Coleman penned it on her Johnson & Johnson stationary set, owing to the totalitarian manner in which it became law, the size of the demographic it will affect, and now, how “’U’ officials” propose to enforce it. Though the validity of the law is debatable, that is another subject for another time. I wish to address two recent developments regarding the smoking ban: the idea of enforcing laws with “peer pressure”, and the $240,805 allotted to be used for its implementation.
A quotation of St. Thomas Aquinas, made famous by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”, asserts that “Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.” Though Dr. King uses this passage to support his argument against segregation, it very much applies to the situation at hand. In Dr. King’s circumstances, his interpretation is that a law passed by those in authority, enforced by the same authority, that degrades the human personality of those it will be applied to is unjust.
“…individuals caught smoking on campus after the ban is implemented won’t be ticketed or arrested. Instead, Winfield (Robert Winfield, UM’s chief health officer) said the rule will be policed by peer pressure”.
However, in July, 2011, the University will place the burden of enforcing this initiative on us, the students. What is peer pressure but a means of unjust influence? What is the use of unjust influence but a degradation of human personality? For our own officials to encourage the practice of peer pressure is something that I will never understand or would ever expect anyone else to. The people hired to manage the University of Michigan, an institution I trust to hold the best wishes of its students in mind, hope to separate our campus and reduce us to mere whistleblowers and bullies, through the very same practice of peer pressure that caused many smokers to pick up the habit.
This, however, is not simply a question of morality.
Michigan’s unemployment rate is one of the worst in the country because Michigan’s economy was one of the hardest hit by the recession. We’re part of an era in which students share desks and teachers find other jobs. With this in mind, how can any gratuitous spending be justified. More specifically, how can THE public university in Michigan spend $240,805 for the implementation of an executive order with shaky foundations and a proposed enforcement battalion of student-narcs? Schools all over our state are cutting positions and programs but we’re adding a salaried overseer to manage…what, exactly? Enforcing this new law? No, they’ve left that up to us, the students who, out of hundreds of other schools, chose to spend four years at the University of Michigan, expecting to find the welcoming atmosphere it claims to provide.
Keeping in mind that what Mussolini did to Italy was considered legal in his day, yet Egyptian civilians protesting the dictatorial, nearly thirty-year rule of President Mubarak is a punishable offense, let us not dote on the justness of this smoking initiative. We know by now that injustice is a natural byproduct of government, deliberately or not. However, the fact that the ban has caused University officials to institute a policy of peer pressure on our campus and to spend $240,805 of our ever-diminishing budget, is grounds for revocation of this initiative, or at the very least, a serious reformation.