After lengthy debate, the Minnesota Student Association voted down a proposed position statement in support of a tobacco-free campus at forum Tuesday.
Advocates and supporters lined the walls, waiting to offer their opinions on the position statement that would have acknowledged MSA’s support of Boynton Health Service in its efforts to implement a campus-wide ban on tobacco.
Qualms over the statement included concerns that plans for implementation of the tobacco-free policy weren’t developed and the language of the statement hadn’t been discussed in committee.
Heidi Rieck, one of the authors of the statement, introduced and spoke in favor of a smoke-free campus with Dave Golden of Boynton.
“We’re promoting a healthier campus,” Rieck said.
Golden said specific implementation plans for the policy hadn’t been decided yet, since Boynton was waiting for the go-ahead from University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler. He said since MSA is the voice of the student body, Boynton was seeking its support on the issue.
Kaler has expressed reluctance to endorse a tobacco ban, saying in a past MSA forum that he wasn’t convinced it had broad-based support or that it could be effectively enforced.
Golden said a tobacco-free ban would likely be enforced through the influence of social stigma.
CLA Senator Andie Whitaker said she wasn’t convinced that approach would work, and she wanted to know the specific implementation plans Boynton had in mind before she would support the position statement.
“I’ve seen this smoking policy fail,” she said.
Whitaker attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth during the first semester a smoking ban was imposed on campus. She said social enforcement didn’t work.
Students still smoked, and since ashtrays were removed from campus because of the ban, she said, cigarette butts littered the campus, and garbage fires occurred.
If Boynton was looking at instituting fines or designated smoking areas to aid in enforcement, Whitaker said she might be more supportive.
During the debate, some members expressed concern that the position statement was put to forum for a vote before a committee had discussed its language.
Marissa Kramer, the director of the MSA University Policies and Student Concerns Committee, said her committee discussed the ideas behind a tobacco-free campus but didn’t see the written statement.
She said the committee had discussed the language of a previous position statement before it went to forum for a vote. That procedure is standard for MSA and has typically happened in the past, she said.
“In my mind, what’s the point of having a committee if we’re not the ones to kind of consider what the language is?” she said.
MSA President Taylor Williams said MSA’s precedent is for statements to go directly to forum in order to give everybody a chance to be involved in discussion.
“I would say the overwhelming majority of position statements and resolutions do not go through committee,” he said.
Williams said he believes the statement will be proposed to forum again at the next meeting.
“This really could save lives,” he said. “I think that we’d be doing a disservice to the University if we didn’t support it.”
MSA and the Council of Graduate Students are partnering to offer a teaching award to outstanding graduate instructors nominated by undergraduate students.
COGS Executive Vice President Andrew McNally spoke to forum about the MSA-COGS Teaching Award. He and Kramer are working together to develop it, he said.
Goals for the prize would be to reward excellent graduate instructors, teaching assistants and reader-graders and to encourage dialogue about how these students can better serve undergraduates, McNally said.
Applications would be accepted through mid-April, Kramer said. A committee of MSA members would select the honorees, and COGS would provide financial support.
McNally said students that nominated graduate instructors would be placed in a drawing for a $50 University Bookstores gift card, and each graduate student winner would receive a $50 honorarium.