SGA discusses new tobacco-free policy draft

SGA stands in front of Randolph Hall in the Cistern Yard at its first Senate meeting Sept. 17. (Photo by Sarah Sheafer)

SGA stands in front of Randolph Hall in the Cistern Yard at its first Senate meeting Sept. 17. (Photo by Sarah Sheafer)

Student Government Association resumed normal operations this week as the organization returned to the Stern Center Ball Room. New Senate blood boiled as anxiety filled the room. Everyone knew that the main focus of this meting was the controversial tobacco-free policy.

Starting in January 2015, the College will become a tobacco-free campus, discriminating against habitual tobacco users and forcing many students to travel off campus and into precarious situations. The College is finished with second-hand smoke and hopes to breathe clean air. Tobacco smoke will be eliminated within the boundaries of all campus owned and operated buildings. Last year, an initial version of a smoke free policy narrowly passed through the Student Senate and abruptly failed to clear the College’s Faculty Senate. Throughout the summer, amendments and specifications were added to the policy, and in August the Board of Trustees reviewed and approved a finalized version of the smoke free campus ordinance. Senior Vice President for Executive Administration Brian McGee came to Senate to hear student body representatives’ opinions.

The new and stricter policy will ban all forms of tobacco, including smokeless and electronic cigarettes, from all locations on campus. Newly elected senator Thomas Aggeles hopped on the ball and collected statements from fellow classmates, most of whom denounced the policy. Aggeles said, “We as representatives of the student body need to make the people’s voice heard.”

The new policy will indiscriminately denounce all tobacco habits and most students at the College are against these measures. “The majority of the student body does not support a tobacco free campus, so I do not support the policy,” Aggeles continued. “I feel that is stringent on people’s rights to handle stress in the way they choose during free time between classes.”

Former SGA President Erica Arbetter dropped into the chamber. An ardent supporter of the policy last semester, Arbetter shared her opinion when called on by the chamber. “Faith is taking the first step even when you cannot see the whole stair case,” Arbetter quoted from Martin Luther King Jr. As a former administrator she concerns herself with the health of students at the College. Although the policy stands to grate against some as it is first enacted, many have hope that a tobacco-free campus will provide an environment in which the well being of all Charlestonians can flourish.

Whether or not you approve of a tobacco-free policy, the College will begin to associate sanctions with smoking in January of 2015. McGee pleaded his hope that an extended deadline will allow students, faculty and staff enough time to “change their habits.” Those who are interested in having their voice heard regarding a tobacco-free College are encouraged to contact SGA Academic Affairs Liaison John Curtis. Even with opposition from the student body, it is most likely that tobacco will be taboo on the College’s campus in a little over one year.

To watch a video on the issue, click here.

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