Years after WCC became a smoke-free campus and tore down the woods smokers hid in, they still aren’t giving up the habit
Positioned elusively throughout the exteriors of buildings and hidden away behind trees, smokers lurk incognito at Washtenaw Community College.
Dan Corcoran, 32, of Ann Arbor is among them. Even after a popular destination for smokers in the woods near the Writing Center was exposed by construction on the parking structure, many who indulge in cigarettes at school have found their own places to light up.
“People go all over the place to smoke,” Corcoran said. “They’ll be out front, under the trees. I’ve seen them quite a bit.”
After the school implemented a ban on cigarettes, many students still do not hesitate to enjoy them on campus. A 14-year smoker majoring in physics, Corcoran has been undeterred by a security presence that he sees as visible, yet lenient
“They usually just drive by, I know they can see me smoking,” Corcoran said. “Maybe they just don’t really care.”
Jacques Desrosiers, director of Campus Safety and Security cares. Enforcing the smoking ban by patrolling campus on foot in search of violators, Desrosiers expects that the smoke won’t ever fully clear from his school.
“With a student body this size, you’ll never get 100 percent compliance,” Desrosiers said. “People would disappear into those woods, but they’d scatter as soon as we approached and leave only evidence.”
Desrosiers has seen smokers congregating in three main areas on his school’s campus. In the woods near the Writing Center, behind the trees of the community park behind the BE building and over the hills that create borders between WCC’s parking lots and public roads.
“If they do smoke, hopefully it’s off campus,” Desrosiers said. “A lot of them tend to go back to their cars. We let them be at that point.”
Smoking in vehicles parked on the campus’ parking lot is unaddressed by the statutes of the school’s smoking policy. Despite this grey area, some students lash out at the ban and proceed to infringe on its parameters. Dancy Smith, 21, of Bellville is one of those.
“I love to smoke on campus,” Smith said. “I do it on purpose because the ban pisses me off.”
Smith doesn’t travel far to enjoy her tobacco. The liberal-arts major encourages that a smoke at WCC is just a short walk away.
“People usually go to the side of the Student Center; there are butts all over there,” Smith said. “I also smoke when walking to my car. Keep mobile.”
For non-smokers, the ban represents an opportunity to avoid the clouds of tobacco smoke that has often plagued them in public.
“People have a right to not be exposed to the smoke,” said Ken Mitchell, 59, of Ypsilanti. “But smokers will still smoke.”
Studying social work at WCC, Mitchell is wary that the ban has forced smokers to find their own space on campus. Mitchell would rather the school tell people where to smoke.
“A designated area would be more appropriate,” Mitchell said. “But one that is far off to the side.”