The Tobacco Policy Has Gone Up In Smoke
This year, more than in the last couple, smoking on campus is seemingly on the rise. Short of quantifying it, you can walk around campus on most days and it is likely that you will end up walking through plumes around Case Center, the dining hall and the library. Seniors may remember their freshmen year when there was not yet a smoking policy. Ashtrays lined the tables on Case Walkway and as one board member described, “it was like walking through a smokestack to get to class.”
Although Skidmore does have a smoking policy that was instituted in November of 2013, the policy’s implementation and enforcement appears to be lost. As written on the Skidmore website, the policy states that smoking is prohibited inside all college facilities and college-owned vehicles, as well as within 25 feet of all buildings on campus. It is also prohibited on large swaths in the center of campus. Although it is important to note, smoking is still allowed in a number of designated spots and farther from the main green. This policy could be effective if it was enforced, but when the policy was created it was decided that it would be community enforced, meaning that campus safety would play no role in discouraging smoking. It would be up to students and faculty to prevent each other from smoking. Three years after the enactment of the policy, it is now clear that the policy is ineffective.
It is not just a question of enforcement, though. The administration and the Student government have not made students aware of the policy. Although non-smoking areas should be clearly marked, the area in front of Case Center features only one unobtrusive sign. Crooked and ready to fall off it’s pillar, the sign goes unnoticed in an area where smoking seems most prevalent.
We also inquired with the Office of the First Year Experience whether first year students were provided with information on the policy. Director Janet Casey informed The Skidmore News that “The tobacco policy is mentioned in the Orientation Guide under "Res Life." But since it's a residential policy (and not an academic one),” she told us to contact The Office of Residential Life. That office, as of the publishing of this article, has not yet commented.
It may be that the policy has gotten lost during the transitions between three Dean of Students over the last few years. Former Dean, Rochelle Calhoun brought forth the current plan to the Institutional Policy and Planning Committee (IPPC) in November of 2013, before her 2015 departure to Princeton. While smoking appeared to be reduced after the policy was implemented, it was never eliminated and much progress towards improving the health of the Skidmore community has been lost.
As part of the policy, IPCC is set to take up the issue again with the intention of instituting an entirely smoke-free campus. There is supposed to be a comprehensive tobacco cessation program as well. This board questions the necessity of going entirely smoke free and instead hopes that the current policy can be given teeth with campus safety enforcement and a penalty system for repeated offenders. By finding a middle ground, where smokers have designated and segregated areas while the majority of non-smokers on campus do not have to be exposed to cigarette smoke, Skidmore will advance public health.
While Dean Banks, due to her short time on campus, declined to comment on how the smoking policy is working now, we hope that she will begin to work with groups on campus to prioritize this important issue. Our peer schools have already enacted firm policies to address tobacco and Skidmore is behind. For example, Colby has an outright ban on smoking. At their school, many repeated infractions can result in suspension. Other institutions such as Colgate have similar policies to our own, in that smoking is prohibited within 25 feet of buildings.
If a person is caught smoking, we suggest a warning at first. If they are found in violation after multiple warnings, smoking infractions should result in points and referrals to existing disciplinary systems.
An effective and timely rollout of a well-communicated policy on smoking will demonstrate Skidmore’s focus on community health. Students, faculty and staff deserve clean air like their peers at other schools.
Photo: Rebecca Fawcett/Photo Editor