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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Student, Faculty Senates recommend tobacco-free campus to chancellor

Published November 29th, 2012

The Chancellor’s Task Force on a Campus Tobacco Policy is recommending a July 1, 2013, implementation date for their policy on a tobacco-free campus. Both Faculty and Student Senate have passed motions of support and all that is needed now is the chancellor’s final stamp of approval.

Student smoking hookah.

This UW-River Falls student is smoking hookah, a tobacco that could become banned if the campus adopts a tobacco-free policy. (Alicia Carlson/Student Voice)

The Task Force was created over the summer to gather data, conduct research, look at student surveys and ultimately bring forth a proposal to the chancellor for UWRF to become tobacco-free.

Chancellor Dean Van Galen explained that this was an effort to have the campus understand the information, the background and the research on this issue, which is a very important issue for our campus.

The Task Force’s vision is “to create a sustainable campus community where the harmful effects of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs are minimized.”

Three open forums were held about a tobacco-free campus last spring and the Task Force has given presentations to many of the governing bodies at UWRF including Student Senate and Faculty Senate.

At the Nov. 13 Student Senate meeting there was a motion before the Senate to approve a resolution supporting a tobacco-free campus. There was a lengthy discussion on the resolution before it was passed with 13 yes votes, eight no votes and three abstentions.

Student Senator Hannah Carlson voted no as she does not support a tobacco-free campus.

“I agree with the argument that it is gross, but I don’t believe it is any of my business. We are adults, they are adults and it is not our right to say that they cannot use it,” Carlson said.

Student Senate President Bobbi O’Brien said she believes that the long discussion over the resolution and the fairly close vote was to be expected as it is a controversial issue. She explained that what may have been hard for the Senators was to not just look at their personal opinions, but what is best for UWRF.

“We are here to represent the students. I think there is a fine line between your personal opinion and what you think is best for the campus, but ultimately it is Student Senate’s job to help decide what is best for the campus,” O’Brien said.

UW-River Falls senior David Kraft.

David Kraft, a UW-River Falls senior, is one of the students who could be affected by this decision. (Alicia Carlson/Student Voice)

UWRF Health Education Coordinator Keven Syverson is a member of the Task Force. He worked extensively with UWRF Director of Student Health and Counseling Services Alice Reilly-Myklebust, along with representatives from each of the four colleges, students, staff and faculty. Together they drew up the policy for a tobacco-free campus that was presented to Faculty Senate on Nov. 28 and will also be forwarded to the chancellor.

Faculty Senate passed a motion to approve the policy put forth by the Task Force with 15 yes votes, one no vote and three abstentions.

“The implementation of this policy can really make a difference. If you make it harder for people to smoke, they are less likely to smoke, less likely to continue to smoke and less likely to become addicted,” Syverson said.

He said that the Task Force believes that the policy is not only good for the health of the students who smoke but also for our institution to be a healthier place where people are not exposed to things like second-hand smoke.

If the policy passes, UWRF will be the second four-year UW System school to become tobacco-free. The only university that is currently tobacco-free in the UW System is UW-Stout.

Van Galen argues that there has been legitimate thought and consideration on this issue and that the decisions that are brought to him by Faculty Senate and Student Senate will most definitely be considered strongly when making his final decision.

“I think what we have is a good process and that it is very important in a shared governance environment that we allow everyone on our campus to have a voice on this position,” Van Galen said.

Van Galen said it is a pretty short timeline that is being recommended and if the policy is to be approved, the University would really have to think about what is involved in the process and whether or not it can be completed by that date.

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