USS May Empty Lang’s 'Ashtray'
The New School’s University Student Senate has been considering an end to smoking in the Vera List courtyard — known to many as “the ashtray.”
Since October 4, Lang representatives from the USS have been informally polling students about whether they would support a potential smoking ban in the courtyard, which is located between the 66 W. 11th St. and 65 W. 12th St. buildings. As of October 6, the USS had gathered 50 signatures: four in support of a ban, and 46 in opposition.
Lang senior Catie Joy, one of the few students who signed in favor of a ban, said that she did so only because she frequently has trouble navigating through the courtyard on her way to class.
“I signed it because I find the overcrowding really irritating,” Joy said. “It can be really difficult because people crowd on the stairs, especially when it’s raining.”
While students like Joy may be primarily concerned by attendant crowding issues, some New School administrators have been complaining about second-hand smoke in the courtyard for years.
Riva Kadar, assistant dean for academic affairs, has a third floor office overlooking the Vera List courtyard. She suffers from a smoking allergy and says that she and many of her colleagues are continually disturbed by cigarette smoke wafting into their offices — especially between classes, when students crowd the courtyard to smoke.
“I understand that students smoke out there to be social, and I respect that, and it’s a nice opportunity to have a space to come together as a community,” Kadar said. “But I also believe that students might not smoke as much if it was a smoke-free courtyard.”
Lang senator Katherine Towell said that Tom McDonald, assistant vice president of student and campus life, approached the USS in September after he heard of student complaints about smoking in the courtyard. The USS opted to first gauge student opinion before making an official recommendation to the administration about what, if anything, should be done.
Lang senior Marquette Korff said that smoking in the courtyard has been an important part of her social experience at Lang, and that she should have the right to do so given the high cost of tuition.
“I think that we pay enough tuition to have the license to use our facilities in the way that we want to use them,” Korff said.
This is by no means the first time the topic of a smoking ban has come up at The New School. On March 31, April Fool’s Day pranksters dispersed fliers around campus informing the community that smoking had been banned in the Vera List courtyard.
But this is the first time a serious poll on the subject has been conducted.
In response to the USS survey, many students have offered alternative solutions to counter traffic congestion in the courtyard between classes, like relegating smoking to one side of the courtyard or banning it in front of the revolving doors.
“It’s nice to see that the students aren’t so split black and white,” Towell said. “We’ve had a lot who were interested in alternative suggestions.”
Student Services declined to comment on the proposed smoking ban.