Residents Fight Back For Outdoor Hangout

A picnic bench near the sitting area outside of the Austin Hall was taken away when a group of students violated a rule on campus that regulates the distance that students can smoke outside a building. This rule is called the 25 by 25 rule and states that students can only smoke outside at least 25 feet from the doorway of every building on campus.

Chris Futch, Area Coordinator for Austin Hall and Res Com stated that the picnic bench was also removed because it wasn’t put there by the university.

As a result, the group of students replaced the picnic bench with a gray table labeled “The Stoop.” Freshman film and media arts major Haley Cerasuola, stated that they were only aware of the policy after the table was taken away.

“They never warned us and never said anything. They just kind of took it. If they really wanted to promote that rule, ‘no smoking unless you’re 25 feet away’, they should’ve hung up signs or better advertised it,” said Cerasuola.

Breathe Easy UT is a tobacco free group on campus working towards a smoke-free campus through awareness. Senior international cultural studies major Monica Mansour, is the president of Breathe Easy UT. She stated that although the 25 by 25 rule has been in effect for years, it hasn’t been advertised around campus as it should’ve been.

However, they are in the process of getting cards to educate students about the policy so that everyone is aware of it. The 25 by 25 rule states that you can’t smoke within 25 feet of any building on campus.

“Second hand smoke is a huge issue so it’s not only that we’re concerned about the smokers, we’re concerned about the environment,” said Mansour.
Contrary to popular belief, the sole purpose of the “stoop” wasn’t for smoking. The students used it as a means of socializing with their friends. That’s where they went to do their homework, eat and hang out.

A freshman psychology major who wishes to remain anonymous wrote an email to Mansour regarding concerns about the words that were said about the students who hung out at the table under the covered verandah outside Austin. The purpose of the email was getting Mansour to understand what they actually do at the table.

Towards the end of the email, the freshman psychology major wrote:

“The other kids and I were deeply insulted by the comments you made and maybe you should take some time to get to know us. We might just surprise you and you are more than welcome to come and sit down with us.”
However, Mansour didn’t receive the email because the email was sent to the wrong person.
A petition was started when freshman criminology major Kate Bordley and another student who no longer lives on campus, heard that they were going to take away the table because of health concerns. It wasn’t just a small group of people who were upset about this issue, but other people in the building that hung out at the stoop.

“We thought that if we showed them that it wasn’t just us that they would probably bring it back but they didn’t,” said Bordley.

The petition received approximately 250 signatures. When Bordley and the group of students realized that they were never going to get the table back, they decided not to submit the petition.

When and if someone approaches them about not smoking in front of the building, then they will consider smoking 25 feet away.

“We don’t want to punish them. We want to have them understand why we’re doing it…We’re trying to educate them of the dangers,” said Mansour.

Every year, the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout takes place on the third Thursday of November. This year it will be on Nov. 21. This is a nationwide event to help smokers quit on that day or to help them plan in advance when they will quit. Breathe Easy participates in this event every year.

In addition to the Great American Smokeout, Breathe Easy will be working on awareness. They are going to give out flyers and talk to people about the dangers of smoking. Cessation classes are offered for people who want to quit smoking.

Zoe Fowler can be reached at

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