Southern campus addresses tobacco free confusion


Journalism students in the News Writing course, under the direction of Prof. Cindy Simoneau, reviewed two important issues on campus: texting among students and compliance with the new smoke-free campus designation. Students worked under project leaders, Dylan Haviland and Philip Zoppi. Project reporters, Edgar Ayala, Natalie Barletta, Wesley Crowell, Cristina D’almeida, Vivian Englund, Katherine Krajcik, Amy Kulikowski, Matthew Stumpo, Jene Thomas, Allaysia Varnado, Andreas Yilma and Christopher Zuniga.

Political science professor Jonathan Wharton attended a faculty senate meeting last year hoping to address the smoking policy and advocate for a special place for smokers to go on campus.

Unfortunately for Wharton, in order to bring up a question at a faculty senate meeting, he would have had to been a member of the faculty senate, which he was not. “My question simply was, ‘why can’t they find a way to designate a specific place or places on campus for smokers?” he said.

However, Wharton is not the only person to question the campus wide tobacco free initiative. One concern was the matter of enforcement. Out of 200 students surveyed in April and May, 80 percent said the policy is not enforced well.

John Kane, senior liberal studies major, is one of the campus smokers who is not content with the smoking ban on campus. Kane said the ban is not for the safety of students, but for the campus to have an upholding image. “All the cops I have talked to don’t really want to enforce the ban,” said Kane. “They don’t even seem like they care about it either.”

The tobacco free initiative was instated on Aug. 25 of last year. It includes vaporizers, e-cigarettes and hookahs. As of April 6, there are over 1,400 campuses that are 100 percent smoke-free, with 823 prohibiting e-cigarettes, according to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights. Of those campuses, there are four Connecticut institutions:

Gateway Community College, Norwalk Community College, Quinnipiac University-North Campus and Southern.

The tobacco accounts for an initial one-year period focusing on education, rather than enforcement and punishment.

“So our goal in the first part of the year was to let people know about the policy, why it’s in place, the resources that we have in place,” said Emily Rosenthal, coordinator of the Wellness Center. “When we see students, faculty or staff smoking I usually have like these cards with lollipops and we give these out and these have information on the back about resources available to students.”

There are signs posts around campus noting the risks of smoking, reminding people of the policy. The university has spent $51,000 dollars on tobacco free signs, according to the Tobacco Free Subcommittee Report and Recommendations.

Southern police Chief Joseph Dooley said there are signs posted around campus explaining the risks of smoking and remind people of the policy. Future plans include implementing “student ambassadors” to walk around campus, educating smokers.

Despite the education stage of the initiative underway, Rosenthal and police said there is a process of recording who continues to smoke on campus in motion. “Now, when we see students or faculty continuing to smoke or vape on campus we let them know this is the policy,” she said. “The sort of phase in period is winding down and we collect their name and then we keep track sort of the people who continue to violate the policy and it goes through the office of the dean of students and then there’s a series or warnings, letters, meetings with student conduct.”

Rosenthal said they are partnering with the campus

police and others to determine the main areas people are going to smoke. She said she can tell where people are going based on the cigarettes butts found on the floor. Popular sites include the wall on the side of Engleman towards Lyman and behind Buley Library. Taylor Geoghegan, a junior education major and non-smoker, said she doesn’t mind students smoking on campus. “Even when it wasn’t banned and there was smoking. You could smoke around campus- it didn’t bother me at all.”

According to Conn. state statute 19A-342, offenders of the campus no-smoking policy are subject to a $75 fine. Michelle Szymaszek, senior education major, said she should not lose her right to smoke because the campus is public.

“I should adhere to state guidelines, not Southern’s,” said Szymaszek.

Szymaszek said if she isn’t smoking in class, the school shouldn’t be hassling smokers. “If an administrator tells me I can smoke where people don’t see me, I don’t know what the problem is.” Even for one non-smokers, Sydney Meehan sopho-more psychology major, believes the ban can be unfair to smokers.

“I know some people agree with the ban,” said Meehan.” But some people really need to feed their additions.”

Kane said he smokes due to the stress he gets from Southern. Kane, Meehan and Szymaszek all agreed there should be a designated spot away or near campus for them to smoke.

Despite confusion of the policy, 71 percent of the students surveyed said the initiative should be kept. The tobacco free subcommittee plan emphasizes the importance of health concerns.

“Our goal is not to punish smokers, or goal is not to ticket them– our goal is really to hopefully connect them with the resources they need to quit. Because we all know that no good could come from smoking.”

Photo Credit: Derek Torrellas 

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