At Holyoke, It's (Cigarette) Lights Out

Holyoke Center will become smoke-free when the building's eighth floor smoking room closes next week, but some smokers are smoldering over the policy change.

The ban on smoking was imposed after heavy debate among members of the Healthy Building Standards Work Group, newly formed to discuss possible improvements to the workplace environment in Holyoke Center.

Argument over the plan pitted those fearful of the negative health effects of secondhand smoke against those more worried about being fair to smokers.

"The pros definitely would be with the secondhand smoke not being in the building," said Donna Osteen, a work group member employed in the student term bills division of financial systems. "The cons were it's not fair to people who do smoke.

The work group met yesterday afternoon to discuss final details of the "transition" of the building to a smoke-free environment, according to Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers representative Ralph Vetters. No penalty for smoking in the building after next week has been discussed, work group members said.

The smoking ban was advocated by Harvard Real Estate after it received complaints from workers in the International Office. The current renovation of Holyoke Center also helped to precipitate discussion of a smoking ban, work groups members said. "Our office is just down the hall from the smoking room," said Claire Davis, who works in the International Office. "The ventilation was so terrible [the smoke] used to come down to our office."


Davis said she took a survey of employees on the eighth floor and found only one smoker, who, in fact, did not use the room. She said employees on the floor were unfairly suffering for the habits of those on other floors.

Real estate employees constituted five of the work group's 14 members.

"We fought it," member Osteen said. "Ultimately, we knew it would happen because that's what real estate wanted to do."

However, work group member Kathleen Taylor, who also is employed in financial systems, said she thought the group was open to many points of view and not dominated by Harvard Real Estate.

Ron Andrews, a work group member who works in the financial systems mail room, charged that Dyslin scheduled meetings on days when he was too busy to get off from work.

"I smoke, and I'm not happy about the decision," said Andrews. "It seems like they set the meetings up on days when we have to deal with payroll."

Dianne Dyslin, the communications director for Harvard Real Estate who scheduled the meetings, said they were held once a month on Thursdays as a matter of routine, not to exclude Andrews.

Harvard Real Estate President Kristin S. Demong said there was "consensus" on the need for the smoking ban, though she acknowledged some dissent on the work group.

"I can't say that everyone was enthusiastic about it from the beginning--I think there were some people who didn't want the issue raised," Demong said. "But I feel very strongly it's the right thing to do for the building and the workforce."

Freeman Dicks, a work group member and smoker, said he believed the new restriction was a good step.

"I smoke myself, and having it in the building was just a health risk," he said. Now, Dicks said, "I go out on the street in all kinds of weather and smoke."

Work group members said they were bound by a Cambridge ordinance that mandates smoke-free buildings.

The group also considered building some sort of outdoor protection for people who must smoke outside when it rains. But Cambridge has prohibited any more building on the Holyoke Center property and the overhang could not be built, group members said.

Demong said University Health Services became smoke-free a few years ago, and she felt it was time for the rest of Holyoke Center to follow suit