Students? Association repeals controversial smoking resolution

Emma Dejong

Emma DejongManaging Editor

The Students’ Association voted to survey students about a campus wide smoking ban, rather than put the issue to a student vote.

Getting the needed two-thirds majority exactly, SA voted to rescind the Nov. 29 resolution in order to specify that the poll’s results will not be a deciding factor.

“The new resolution isn’t going to change policy in any way,” said Sen. Shad Christman, who co-sponsored the resolution. “It’s just intended to gauge student opinion.”

While introducing the new resolution at the Jan. 31 meeting, Christman called the original, rescinded resolution “controversial,” “biased,” “a firestorm” and “not what the students wanted.”

The rescinded resolution, which was passed Nov. 29, said SA would “sponsor a campus-wide student/ employee vote to approve a smoke-free campus.” On Jan. 31, Senators Christman and Kate Wegehaupt sponsored Resolution 10-20-R, which changed the title from “Smoke-free campus vote” to “Smoking policy student survey,” and it underwent multiple clarifications and amendments.

“We spent about 45 minutes slicing and dicing the new resolution,” Sen. Mark York said.

SA chose to put the survey on the presidential election ballots on March 21, which was a decision proposed by York.

(Former Sen.) Hassan Ali, who was one of the sponsors of the first resolution, saw the smoking and tobacco issue as something that could potentially get students interested in SA and interested in who to elect as leaders.

“[Ali] thought it would be a really neat way to get people out to the polls at elections by putting the smoking issue on the ballot,” York said.

Christman and SA President Brett Monson said the increase in voter turnout was not the main purpose.

“That may have been part of it,” Monson said. “I couldn’t say that would be the sole reason.”

Whether or not an increase in voter numbers was an original goal, Monson and Christman said an increase in turnout would be a positive effect, considering last year close to 2,000 students voted.

“That would be a nice bonus,” Monson said. “[But] ideally, we could have voter turnout regardless of the smoking thing.”

Some senators said they did not think having the survey on the ballot was appropriate.

“It’s one of those things that they might not see what else [a candidate] is campaigning on,” Sen. Marissa Granstra said. “So there could be a different issue that they kind of [overlooked].”

SA also discussed what the survey would say.

Students will be asked two questions: “Where do you currently live?” and, “Which of the following would you like to see implemented at SDSU?” Both of these will be multiple-choice questions.

Senators said this will give students more options when considering the issue.

The first resolution] only gave them one option: do you want to ban smoking, or do you not?” Christman said.

York agreed.

“The new one says exactly what it is we are going to do,” York said. “It gives more options, rather than just saying “do you want smoke-free, yes or no.'”

Currently, there are no official plans of what is going to be done with the information gathered from the results.

“It’s going to have a disclaimer that says these questions are for informational purposes only,” York said.

If the results of the survey show a large majority of students feel strongly about the issue on one side or the other, Christman said SA will likely act accordingly to those results.

“Our No. 1 goal is to enact the will of the students,” Christman said. “We want to do what the students want.”

Christman said there is a clause in the resolution to “look at the results and act appropriately.””It would be my goal that things should get done,” Christman said.

President David Chicoine said the information gathered will be helpful for when decisions are made in the future.

“The results will give us an indication of the preferences of the current students,” Chicoine said. “It’s good to get the input, and that will help us understand what we are to do.”

SDSU is not the only institute looking at banning smoking and tobacco use.

“Really the public institutions are about the only ones that do not have completely smoke-free policies,” said Paul Turman, BOR associate vice president for academic a_ airs. “All technical schools and all private schools in South Dakota [have smoke-free policies].”

A Postsecondary Tobacco-Free Taskforce was created “to explore institutional willingness to embrace tobacco-free policies,” according to the Committee on Academic and Student A_ airs’ report from the December BOR meeting.

“I think the goal is to help provide information for campuses if they are considering this,” said Turman, who directs the taskforce.

Lukasz Dubaj is the executive director of the Student Federation, which is the student governing body for all six regental institutions, and he is a member of the tobacco-free taskforce.

“Basically what we’re doing is taking a look at the smoking and tobacco usage at each university,” Dubaj said.

The taskforce was created in August 2010 and first met on Oct. 22, and was funded by a grant from the South Dakota Department of Health. Dubaj said that the taskforce simply exists to inform.

“Of course [the Department of Health] has a goal, but we are trying to remain as neutral as possible,” Dubaj said.

Turman stressed that this taskforce does not have decision-making power.

“Ultimately, there’s no binding component to it,” Turman said. “It’s more of an informal, informational type of committee.”

Currently, no plans are in the works for any sort of regental policy.

“As it stands right now, we’re sticking with what we feel our own university’s needs are,” Monson said. “In the future that may come up; it’s just hard to say.” The issue of implementing a smoking ban, according to York, is not new.

“It’s something that’s been talked about for years,” York said. “It’s sort of been a trend culturally. It’s something that’s able to be brought up because of the way things are going.”

Christman said SDSU’s SA began discussing the topic because other state institutions were moving that way. “It was something that senators had heard a lot about, so we thought that this was an issue students were [concerned about],” Christman said. Chicoine said that he looks forward to seeing the outcome of the survey and the decisions that follow. “There’s a lot of dynamics with the issue of tobacco and whose rights need to be considered, whether it’s the individual rights or the collective rights,” Chicoine said.