Two Greylock dorms to become smoke-free

Due to renovations taking place this summer, Bryant and Mark Hopkins, two houses in the Greylock Quad, will be smoke-free beginning next fall.

Tom McEvoy, director of housing, said a new fire alarm system will be installed during the renovation, and the combination of the new system, the buildings’ low ceilings and the small size of the rooms makes the smoke-free policy necessary.

The decision to make the buildings smoke-free was made on the recommendation of the engineers and architects involved in the renovation, as well as the Williams Fire Marshal and the Williamstown Fire Chief.

Williams is required by law to install the new fire alarm system when renovating the buildings. These new alarms are more sensitive than the current ones and must be placed on the lowest part of the ceiling. The low ceiling heights in Greylock are likely to trigger many false alarms.

Currently, the bedrooms have battery-operated smoke detectors. McEvoy said smokers living in or visiting Greylock often remove the batteries from the detectors so the alarm does not go off. He said, “This is very dangerous, needless to say, but in a twisted way it has reduced the number of alarms due to smoking.”

With the new system, when an alarm sounds in one room, the entire building will hear an alarm, thus requiring full evacuation. Phil Swisher, president of housing committee, said with smokers in the buildings, there could be many false fire alarms, which can create a dangerous situation of students not evacuating the building when the alarms go off. McEvoy agreed, pointing to a similar situation resulting in the death of three students at Seton Hall in January. “Students did not take the alarm seriously due to a high frequency of false alarms,” he said.

McEvoy has been working on the issue of smoke-free housing for over a year. Once he exhausted all his possible alternatives to making the buildings smoke-free, he presented his findings to Housing Committee and CC for more student input. Housing Committee asked about removing the ceiling waffles, but they are structural supports for the building and therefore cannot be removed.

Swisher believes the smoke-free housing will be popular with students. He said, “There are many students on this campus who lead healthy lifestyles and would welcome the option of picking into a smoke-free building.”

Swisher was quick to point out, as did McEvoy, that this is not an administrative effort to make the campus smoke-free. Parsons and Hubbell are also being renovated this summer, and students will still be able to smoke in their rooms in those buildings.

Many students support the change. Meredith Fruchtman, ’02, said, “I think given the circumstances, it’s a very good idea.”

Others disagreed. “I think it sucks,” said Matt Roessing ’01. “I think you should be allowed to smoke anywhere and everywhere,” Matt Garin ’01 added.

The issue of making the entire campus smoke free has been raised by many organizations this year, and Swisher believes that it will likely be addressed by next year’s Housing Committee.

He said, “It is an issue that requires a great deal of careful consideration, much like the substance-free housing debate last year.”