Vote “No” on Smoking
Talia is a sophomore senator on her Associated Student Government. Recently, the university administration asked the Senate to reconsider their initiative to institute a campus-wide smoking ban. Talia knows that her constituency resoundingly approves the ban. Smoking is widely disapproved of on campus. Student government had done extensive surveys and from her own discussion with sophomore students, Talia knows they are looking forward to a campus ban on smoking. While the university administration wants to promote the appearance of a healthy campus, it has quietly expressed concerns that the ban could violate student rights and open the university to lawsuits. Talia knows that the university doesn’t have insight into the structural and legal logistics that influence the university’s concern.
Talia believes that the university administration is correct. Talia also wonders if the ban goes to far in regulating the behavior of students. Although (perhaps because) it is widely disapproved of, smoking on campus is very limited and does not pose a significant problem. The public health concerns seem insignificant, and Talia knows the few students who do smoke will feel more isolated and rejected. Talia feels that she should vote “no” against the ban, but knows she will be going against the wishes of her constituency. As the voice of the students, she wonders if it is right to vote against their beliefs, and worries that it may result in students denying her re-election in the spring.
What would you do in Talia’s position? How do you represent your constituency while also taking into account the larger picture? How do you negotiate your access to more detailed, and sometimes confidential, information?