Posted by Jenny Zhang
If you've ever left your dorm, you've probably encountered secondhand smoke at one point or another. Whether you're the smoker taking a puff in front of the Burgess Caf??, or the passerby that witnesses the crowds forming around the benches anterior to the residence halls, news of a potentially smoke-free Skidmore might come as a shock to you.
According to Rochelle Calhoun, dean of Student Affairs and co-chair of the subcommittee on Student Affairs from the Institutional Policy and Planning Committee (IPPC), discussions about the potential of the College becoming a smoke-free campus stem from a Student Government Association Senate meeting that took place last year. SGA President Matthew Walsh '13, who also serves as co-chair with Calhoun on Student Affairs, attended a senate meeting where senators chose smoking as an issue for the IPPC to look into.
"We started by doing some reading about smoke or tobacco-free campuses. We also had a conversation with a woman who works with the Cancer Society," Calhoun said. "She talked to us about trends and higher education, about going smoke free. In the middle of first semester last year, we learned that the Environmental Health and Safety committee was also looking at the issue. We combined forces and had a conversation on how to begin to explore the issue."
Conveniently, Christine Kopec, currently a visiting assistant professor for the Department of Management & Business, was also teaching a business ethics class at the time, in which one of the students' objectives was to explore an issue in the community. Kopec asked her class to take up the issue of smoking on campus.
Kopec's class investigated the question of being a smoke-free campus. Students referenced other institutions that went smoke or tobacco-free, and tried to understand why they made their decision by examining the processes they followed. At the end of the course, the class was asked to offer their perspective on whether the College should become a tobacco or smoke-free campus, and answered in the affirmative.
When Student Affairs and the Health and Safety committee coalesce this year, members will review the report from the business ethics class once again.
"It really has been a conversation in committee at this point. Our goal this year is to make it a campus conversation," Calhoun said. She added, ""There is a range of options for us. We want to know what they are and be in a community dialogue about it."
Walsh reviewed smoking policies of close to 15 institutions that he said the College considers "peer and aspirant." Only one was on its way to becoming smoke-free. Others had specific policies about various parameters around buildings past which students and faculty could not smoke.
In addition, surveys were administered by Health Promotions to find out more about students' behaviors around smoking. Calhoun said if the surveys are sufficient, the committee will review them.
Enforcement of potential smoking policies is a topic of much discussion on college campuses. While some universities see a ban as a violation of the school's policies, others have made it a communal responsibility to uphold the decree. At various schools, literature that serves as a reminder of tobacco or smoke-free school environments was printed and distributed throughout campus.
Calhoun predicts that if the decision to make the College smoke-free is final, it should take 18 months to two years before the policy can fully take effect.
"Folks who are interested in exploring it span both students, staff and faculty," Calhoun said. "I can certainly say there is community interest in having this conversation."