Cig­a­rette (photo: Wiki­media Commons)

Dear Editor,

When someone requests that stu­dents not smoke in a par­ticular location, com­paring such a request to a “safe space,” as a columnist did last week, is absurd. Not only is such a request against smoking per­fectly rea­sonable, but the dis­missal of the request as a “safe space” iron­i­cally resembles the “safe space” argument more than the request itself.

Surely the columnist would not deny that cit­izens have the right to protest public nui­sances. Laws against breach of the peace have been part of English and American common law for cen­turies, often aug­mented by laws against offenses such as public drunk­enness and excessive noise. Smoking is legal on campus and probably will remain so, but legality does not con­stitute immunity from mild crit­icism.

There are no rules pre­venting a mariachi band from rehearsing in A.J.’s Café every week­night, but one could jus­ti­fiably com­plain about the nui­sance resulting from that. Is that “pref­er­ential realism,” as the columnist called it? No, that is simply common decency, as is a request that stu­dents not smoke in a heavily traveled and con­fined space.

The columnist’s description of “pref­er­ential realism” includes several examples of denying unpleasant facts, such as election results or the final judgment. Appar­ently this means that having stu­dents smoke outside the library is a certain, unchangeable fact that can be equated to the­ology or history, and those who ask that smokers not indulge in that par­ticular location are trying to “conform reality to their pref­er­ences.”

According to this logic, I can never ask someone to move who is unin­ten­tionally blocking a hallway, since reality is telling me that they must stay there indef­i­nitely. Such a con­clusion is of course ludi­crous.

By referring to the pre­vious column as a “safe space,” the columnist is par­taking in the same logic that he is decrying. The reality is that some stu­dents find smoke in that location to be a nui­sance and have made a rea­sonable request, but the columnist refuses to entertain this idea because his pref­er­ences don’t agree.

With his rea­soning, since it is com­fortable for smokers to smoke outside the library, we ought not to disturb them. Iron­i­cally, dis­missing the argument because it impedes on others’ comfort and because it makes people uncom­fortable is pre­cisely what the columnist accuses others of doing, namely, “trying to conform reality to their pref­er­ences.” Surely there are better responses to the original column than com­paring it to a “safe space.”

Tom Ryskamp is a junior studying accounting and music.