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Students ask for cleaner, safer air

April 9, 2009

In the spring of 2008, Student Health Services at UW-River Falls repeated an alcohol and tobacco survey that had been administered in previous years.

The findings show that more students care about the air on this campus than may have been assumed. Seventy-four percent of students surveyed said a smoking ban would benefit this campus. 

Starting in January 2009, a new survey was being administered to University students and faculty regarding the issue of a smoking ban. The next step for UWRF is to use the data from student surveys as evidence and support when they present the findings to the Administrative Assembly, Keven Syverson, UWRF Health Education Coordinator, said.

The Administrative Assembly consists of department heads and leadership of UWRF. The data will be collected and reviewed by June and Syverson said it will most likely be presented after the new chancellor has arrived.

A rule is currently in place which restricts students from smoking any closer than 25 feet from any University building. However, UWRF is aiming for something higher. A ban that would limit students to smoking on city sidewalks rather than those on campus, along with any other property belonging to the University is currently in the works.

Some may be skeptical of this sort of ban, but it has worked in some cases.

UW-Platteville currently has a smoking policy that limits students from smoking on the grounds of the university that house academic buildings. With this policy, students then are able to smoke outside of residence halls and any grounds of the university that does not house an academic building. 

UW-Platteville’s Student Senate received a complaint about a lack of compliance with the 25 foot policy, and an ad hoc committee was formed in November of 2007 to address the issue more closely. 

“The process of approving the policy that was proposed was to have each of the three Senates of UW-Platteville (Student Senate, Faculty Senate and Academic Staff Senate) review the proposed policy and make their recommendation to Chancellor Markee,” Richard Egley, UW-Platteville Dean of Students, said in an e-mail interview. 

The proposed policy was accepted, with some minor modifications, by Chancellor Markee and was put into place in August of 2008. Egley stated that as of now there has not been much feedback from students, and that for the most part students are complying with the policy.

According to the 2008 survey, students at UWRF claimed that the place they are most regularly exposed to secondhand smoke is while on campus while on sidewalks and in the entrances into campus buildings. 

Shannon Wagner is a junior at UWRF and a smoker.

“If River Falls approved a smoking ban on campus I’d be pretty upset. Outside is a pretty big space. If you don’t like the smoke, walk around,” Wagner said when asked about the possibility of a smoking ban. “However, the litter that smokers produce on campus is atrocious and I hate it. I think that if people are going to be allowed to continue smoking on campus they need to put their cig butts in the disposal and not just throw them anywhere.”

Brittany Machus is a senior at UWRF and does not smoke, but she said she feels that a smoking ban would not be the best option.

“As much as I am against smoking and think it’d be nice to not have to see or smell that, I think it would be taking away people’s rights.” 

She suggested that there should be stricter rules about where individuals are able to smoke on campus. 

The next step for UWRF is to use the data from student surveys as evidence and support when they present the findings to the Administrative Assembly, Syverson said.

“We need to get students to give grass root support,” Syverson said, “in order to show that those on this campus actually want things to change.”