Sophomore Jarit Smith opens his drawer, and sorts through various items before he finds what he’s looking for. After grabbing his lighter, Smith taps the bottom of the pack, squeezing the tobacco together. He pulls out a single cigarette, carefully tucking it in the palm of his hand before heading outside.
After a brief walk, he joins a group of about eight students on the corner of North Avenue and Campus Street — “Smoker’s Corner.”
Smoker’s Corner, located across the street from Wright Hall, is a popular spot for HU’s smokers. The small corner is barely a few feet from campus, but technically qualifies as off-campus, so students can light up there without violating HU’s tobacco-free policy.
“I respect them for honoring that and choosing not to smoke on campus,” Nathan Geer, Wright Hall resident director, said.
Students say Smoker’s Corner is about more than just following the tobacco policy, though. Sophomore Josh Doolan said the corner is also a place he enjoys to hang out.
“It is the best experience off-campus,” he said. “It’s probably the most common one people have.”
“The best philosophical conversations I’ve had have been while I’m at Smoker’s Corner,” Freshman Chrystal Montoya said.
“It’s Huntington’s version of the water cooler,” Rusty Boone, a junior, said.
The weather doesn’t seem to deter smokers from the corner either, Geer said.
“I’ve seen them out there in the rain,” he said. “Those are the days that I feel bad.”
While no official records have been kept, some students who smoke on the corner believe there are more students using the corner than previous years, while others haven’t noticed any significant increase. They say there’s an average of three to five students on the corner at a time, while they estimate that the same 25 students use the area.
“I feel like there are more smokers here than last year,” junior Keirsh Cochran said. “It’s become a social thing.”
Smith said he believes there are a lot more smokers on campus than those who frequent the corner.
“When I was a freshman, I didn’t want anyone to know I smoked,” he said. “I would go for a walk and go off-campus and smoke. I imagine it’s like that now. Some freshmen don’t want people to know they smoke.”
Smoker’s Corner is worn from years of HU students’ use. No grass exists on the strip of land anymore, but plenty of cigarette butts and cigarette packs litter the ground. The corner is in front of a fenced-off garden,owned by John Truck, who has given students full-permission to smoke there.
According to HU’s 2011-2012 Student Handbook, “The use of tobacco is not permitted on campus and includes streets, sidewalks or properties contiguous to the university.” But since Smoker’s Corner is owned by John Truck, who allows smokers, it is permitted.
“He’s kind of been accommodating the students as long as they take care of the property and clean up after themselves,” Jesse Brown, associate dean of student development, said. “He’s never said anything about it.”
Brown himself has cleaned up smoker’s corner. He wants to be a “good neighbor” to the residents around campus.
“That’s my concern and the university’s concern,” he said.
Some smokers who use the corner acknowledge the corner is dirty.
“We’ve actually all been giving consideration in picking this up shortly, if we ever actually get a game plan,” Doolan said.
“We’re going to clean them up when we have time basically,” Smith said.
The corner does have a student-owned buttbin where they can place their cigarette butts. It’s chained to the fence, and the key to the lock is passed down to a new student every year who has the responsibility of cleaning the bin.
Charles Brady, a former HU professor who has lived near the corner since 1997, said he doesn’t appreciate the litter.
“We have complained to the college about it because my wife spends her time picking up cigarette butts,” Brady said, pointing to the various buts around his feet. “We said that over where the volleyball courts are, they should put a table…for the kids to sit down and put a can for the butts. That would be a good thing, that’s college property. This is private property over here.”
A move like this, however, would contradict HU’s tobacco-free policy.
According to the handbook, “The use of any tobacco products on-campus and at all university-sponsored events is prohibited.”
“We couldn’t put anything [at Smoker’s Corner] that the university had purchased because then we would be calling that our property,” Geer said.
“As soon as they’ve taken furniture from Wright lounge, we immediately have to go and bring it back because that’s not our property.”
There have been other times when neighbors have called the school, complaining about student smokers on their property. In these cases, the students were told by administration to find another place to smoke off-campus. Brown said it’s the same situation as a student illegally parking on private property.
“We would never tell anyone where they can smoke,” he said. “We would inform students where they can’t smoke.”
Despite complaints, Geer said he doesn’t see the school ever allowing students to smoke on-campus, for financial reasons.
“When you’re a smoke-free campus, there are major insurance cuts the campus gets,” he said. “That’s not a fiscally wise move. You’re not going to gain a lot of students that would offset the loss of insurance cuts by being a smoking campus.”
“For students who attend Huntington and smoke, it can be inconvenient for them,” Brown said. “But I don’t think that’s unique to Huntington. That’s pretty general for a lot of campuses.”
Most students aren’t complaining about not having a place to smoke on campus, Doolan said.
“I have no problem with the corner, actually,” Doolan said. “If the corner wasn’t here, we’d be like ‘Dude, we need a place!’ It’s just a place we associate with ‘Oh, we’re going to come out here and hang out with people.’”
“A chair would be nice, though,” Cochran said.