By Ray Liu
The Undergraduate Assembly passed two proposals last night to ban smoking in college houses and establish a medical emergency response team.
The UA set aside a portion of its weekly meeting for a town hall forum, during which Penn's Medical Emergency Response Team brought forth a proposal to the body.
A volunteer student organization, MERT hopes to complement the emergency medical care provided by the University by implementing a separate team of first aid and CPR-certified students to aid people in medical emergencies on campus.
Because the Philadelphia Fire Department has limited resources, "their ambulance response times are inconsistent and prolonged," MERT member and College freshman Andrew Mener said. "MERT can be at the scene of an emergency within minutes to start treatment, stabilize a patient and await arrival of an ambulance."
"Such a team could prove life-saving in many situations where time matters," he added.
And the UA enthusiastically agreed. With no statements against the proposal, the body unanimously passed the plan.
The smoking ban proposal -- which reflected the results of a UA survey of nearly 500 students -- proved to be far more contentious, however.
The author of the proposal, Engineering senior Jon Ozark, saw a number of benefits to his recommendation.
"Only one respondent [who is a smoker] to the UA survey said that they would be bothered by having smoke-free dorms," he said. "The only other solution to the problem of students inhaling unwanted secondhand smoke would be to fix the ventilation systems, which would be a tremendous cost."
UA Vice Chairman and Engineering and Wharton senior Matt Lattman agreed, saying that "27 percent of universities in the United States already have such policies," and mentioned how this has a big impact on students who suffer from asthma.
UA University Council Representative and College junior Jason Levine vehemently disagreed, however.
"We should not be allowed to dictate what goes on in someone's personal space," he said. "This proposal goes against everything we stand for as students... in a free democracy."
Nevertheless, the proposal passed with 18 in favor, eight against and one abstention.
Other issues discussed at the town hall meeting included concerns by representatives from minority student organizations.
Black Student League member Yewande Fapohunda brought forth concernsabout the UA's efforts to create a housing system that would group freshmen together in the same dorms, and about the University's recent allocation of the former Palladium space to the Performing Arts Council, rather than the the minority resource centers -- who had originally requested the space.
In other news, members of the UA attended a conference this past weekend for the Ivy Council, a network of student governments from all of the Ivy League schools except Harvard University.
Two resolutions were passed at this meeting, including one that made a statement against the Recording Industry Association of America's arbitrary prosecution of students engaged in file-sharing and one that encourages the member schools to be more "green friendly" and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.
Representatives who attended the meeting were quick to note, however, that Penn was already a leader in promoting environment-friendly policies.