HARRISBURG - Grabbing a quick smoke between classes has become impossible for Lock Haven University political science professor Robert Storch.
An indoor and outdoor smoking ban imposed at Pennsylvania's state university system in September means Storch must walk off campus whenever he craves nicotine - a 20-minute roundtrip excursion that he cannot cram into a 15-minute break between classes.
"I find it ridiculous," Storch told a Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board hearing examiner yesterday. "You feel like a leper anyway. It's really very demeaning."
Storch was among a handful of professors at the 14 universities who testified about the smoking ban during a hearing on an unfair-labor-practice complaint filed by the State System of Higher Education's faculty union. A ruling is not expected before February.
The 5,900-member Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties wants the ban rescinded. The policy was imposed with virtually no warning, and the union argues that any changes should have been negotiated.
The ban on smoking at the universities came as a state law banning indoor smoking in most places, including educational facilities, took effect. The schools enroll more than 112,500 students and employ roughly 13,000 people.
Chancellor John Cavanaugh has said state law left him no choice. He interprets the law to extend beyond the universities' indoor facilities and include all campus grounds, particularly because some classes are held outside.
System administrators have proposed modifying the ban, but no action has been taken, spokesman Kenn Marshall said.
That modification would let employees smoke inside their cars with the windows up and permit smoking on sidewalks along public roads that pass through the campuses. The system also is considering providing receptacles for cigarette butts on the campus perimeters.
In addition to Lock Haven, the state system includes Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities.