Faculty Senate discusses concerns over proposed tobacco-free policy

Annie Furia and Annie Furia

A presentation on the proposed tobacco-free policy brought contention to Tuesday’s Faculty Senate meeting.

The policy would ban all tobacco products, including vapor-producing products and smokeless tobacco products, from campus. It would also eliminate designated smoking areas from campus property.

The policy is still in the stage of gathering support from students, faculty and staff. With enough support, the committee behind the policy would submit a proposal to the Board of Trustees in December and if approved begin enforcement in fall 2016.

The focus will be education rather than enforcement.

“It comes down to how we educate and how long we educate,” said Chris Powers, assistant manager for Parking Services and member of the committee. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”

Universities such as Miami University, Ohio University, The Ohio State University, and the University of Toledo have already instituted tobacco-free policies on their campuses.

“Other institutions have already taken the lead on these types of policies,” Faith Yingling, director of wellness and head of the committee, said.

After the presentation, members of the senate brought up positive and negative opinions about the proposed policy.

Faculty Senate member Anne Gordon, associate professor of psychology, voiced concerns over how the policy would affect students of low socioeconomic status, or low SES students.

“I suspect that working class and low SES students are much more likely to be cigarette smokers than upper class students,” she said. “I would be concerned that … this creates an unintended consequence of discrimination against poor and low SES students.”

Other members questioned the need to ban smokeless tobacco, citing the lack of danger to others smoke causes.

Powers said that smokeless tobacco is “not a harmless thing” as the need to spit or remove the tobacco with one’s hands creates unsanitary spread of bodily fluids.

Another concern was the addictive nature of tobacco.

“I understand it’s powerful, I understand it’s an addictive substance,” Powers said. “The fact that it’s difficult to stop isn’t sufficient to justify making it OK for that to harm other people.”

During his address, Provost Rodney Rogers updated the senate on the decision on using the file sharing and storage program DropBox.

Rogers said ITS will provide support for faculty who wish to have the program on their University computer, but the University will not purchase any enterprise license before getting an idea of the amount of faculty who would use it.

Rogers also updated the senate on the Universty’s accordance with House Bill 64, which stipulates that higher education institutions must give students opportunities to decrease the cost of attending college. Rogers encouraged faculty to aid in this by providing students the option to use ebooks or course reserves, or by using open source material for their classes.

He also spoke of the new advising process, which he said would help “students who are the most at risk” and “ensure that we have our advising staff engage with those students to support them.”

Faculty Senate also heard from David Levey, chair of the Board of Trustees, as he explained the role of the board on campus.

“We don’t run the University, that’s the president’s job,” he said.

Trustee Megan Newlove also spoke to clarify that the decision on selling or keeping the WBGU-TV station is in the hands of the administration, though the board gave their recommendation that the University’s broadcasting license be sold and the station kept on air.