Administrative Talk of Tobacco Policy is Hot Air
In our last editorial on smoking, The Skidmore News Editorial Board expressed hope that the college might consider more substantial enforcement of Skidmore’s current tobacco policy. We wrote that casual community enforcement has not worked, and that the college can still improve campus climate through a policy that does not place an outright ban on tobacco. The Skidmore News did not have plans to revisit the smoking policy until the review process began next year, so the Editorial Board has appreciated that SGA has already begun discussing this issue. Our plans changed after a late October meeting with the President, Dean Banks and VP for Strategic Planning, Joshua Woodfork. It was after hearing from the administration that we now understand the dim future of public health on this campus.
Despite being months away from the review, President Glotzbach explained that “asking Campus Safety to do this [enforce a smoking policy] is a non-starter.” The President and other administrators, instead of discussing hopes for policy reform, turned to patting themselves on the back about the fact we no longer smoke in buildings at Skidmore. Joshua Woodfork added, “I remember going to Friendly’s [and everyone was smoking.]” Then there was another joke about how people used to smoke on airplanes. Laughs bounced between administrators even after Editor Jacob Reiskin explained that not smoking in buildings just shows that Skidmore is following New York State law. As an institution, we are setting a low bar for ourselves.
Dean Banks has said “Skidmore has not been a community to enforce things in this way,” when referring to a more rigid tobacco policy. President Glotzbach agreed. The Board considered our new Dean’s suggestion, and we struggled to explain the claim that relocating smokers on campus would be unprecedented. Skidmore also has policies for alcohol consumption on campus, as well as noise regulations. These, in addition to parking violations, are heavily enforced by our Campus Safety officers. Why should smoking, another public health and safety issue, be an inappropriate jurisdiction for Campus Safety?
In the same meeting, we were told by the President and by Woodfork, the Director of the Office of the President, that “we don’t know enough where everyone is” and that more “community conversation” is required. President Glotzbach condoned this as well. They argued that the last community effort to create the smoking policy was insufficient for understanding community thoughts and needs.
After checking records and speaking with people associated with that committee, we do not believe that the President’s statement is well-grounded in the realities of that effort. In an email from 2014 detailing the process for creating the smoking policy, it was noted that over the course of two years, two committees of students, faculty and staff poured over feedback from a survey of 615 student responses and public meetings. According to one committee member, these meetings had about 25 participants a piece—an attendance rate well above those for sexual assault and others topics this year—in addition to a survey with 1000 campus participants.
Robin Adams, Director of Leadership Activities (and a committee member for both years) said, “there was definitely attention paid to it [community engagement].” After researching previous efforts, The Skidmore News was left wondering what the administration would consider sufficient community engagement. The President’s Office and the Office of the Dean of Students seem to be making unsubstantiated statements with the intention of further delaying discussion of this important public health issue.
The Skidmore News still hopes that the college will choose to review the smoking policy with a pragmatic desire to protect student, faculty and staff health. We believe that Skidmore can create an appealing campus climate, like many other colleges already have, while still avoiding what one board member described as “gestapo-esque policy [enforcement].”
Leaders on this campus have the opportunity to demonstrate Skidmore’s commitment to community well-being. Students and faculty should not have to suffer from second-hand smoke on their way to class. Perhaps a robust policy would benefit smokers, too. Robin Adams explained that one of the reasons he quit smoking was because Skidmore was instituting a smoking policy. His story should inspire the administration to consider how common-sense policy can help community members make decisions to live healthier lives. Creating the accessible tobacco cessation program that we were supposed to have already would be a good start.
Photo by Rebecca Fawcett '18