ASA tobacco policy stalls at admin’s doorstep
Several months after the Augustana Student Association passed the measure to ban all tobacco products from campus, the policy is still under review by Augustana President Rob Oliver and the Board of Trustees.
The measure would prohibit all kinds of tobacco use, including cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Both students and staff would be affected by the policy.
ASA president Mason Van Essen said the initiative, which was supported by a majority of students surveyed last year, is being evaluated by the university’s administration before being officially approved and implemented.
However, until the policy is assessed by the administration, tobacco use is still permitted.
“The ASA formally passed the policy last spring, and then we passed that along to the Board of Trustees,” Van Essen said. “The Board of Trustees will use our proposal to come up with a realistic solution to implement the measure.”
Over the course of this academic year, the administration will survey faculty and staff members to gain insight on their perspective of the plan.
The ASA conducted a similar study last year and found that 73 percent of students support the idea.
“The work of the students involved is much appreciated and included research that had been undertaken in support of this move,” Oliver said. “I have since studied other campuses which have enacted such a policy and have gathered ideas about how we might move forward here at Augustana.”
While students have spoken, Oliver wants to weigh the opinions of faculty and staff before moving forward.
“The logical next step is to survey faculty and staff to gain their insights as well, as this impacts those who work here every day just as it does our students,” Oliver said. “So, presently we are considering the construction and timing of the survey.”
The results of the survey will ultimately dictate the policy’s future. If approved by the administration and the Board of Trustees, the measure will be implemented in the Fall of 2017.
If the Board of Trustees passes the measure, they must establish proper rules and sanctions to enforce the policy.
“The administration is working on how to enforce the policy,” Van Essen said. “It would obviously start with putting signage up and then work our way into Augustana’s culture, but, initially, when the program is launched there has to be a way to regulate tobacco use, whether it is by Campus Safety or some other way.”
When it comes to opposition to a tobacco-free campus, both Oliver and Van Essen say that the policy has not been seen negatively so far.
However, 27 percent of students did vote against it last year. Junior Tom Tow believes that because tobacco is legal in the U.S., it should be legal on Augustana’s campus.
“There’s people out there who pretty much need it to function,” Tow said.
Oliver hasn’t heard much dissent.
“I have not heard opposition, but we also have not formalized a method to receive feedback, which is what the survey can provide,” Oliver said. “Clearly, the majority of people at Augustana choose not to use tobacco, but there are some who do. It would be my hope that we can listen to their input as well and provide the proper response to creating an inclusive and respectful environment for all.”
The surveys will be executed sometime this year, after which the Board will reach a decision.
“I believe that becoming a tobacco-free campus will make Augustana a healthier environment overall,” Oliver said. “I also believe in individual freedoms, so the taking the right approach to pursuing the end goal of a healthy environment is key to achieving the right outcome for all.”