This past November, a tobacco-free policy at SLU was presented to all University governing bodies by Edwin Trevathan, M.D., M.P.H., Dean of the College of Public Health and Social Justice. In response to these presentations to the Student Government Association (SGA) and Faculty Senate, last year’s UNews Editorial Board discussed the difficulties of implementing the policy, the speed of the implementation and the implications of a truly tobacco-free campus.
Since February, we have heard little about the prospects of a tobacco-free policy at SLU. That changed Monday, Nov. 3, when students received an email from SGA about a tobacco-free policy that SGA and other University bodies are working to implement at SLU. The email further stated that Faculty Senate had already passed the proposal.
Now, there are still reservations from some members of the UNews Editorial Board, regarding enforcement mechanisms, potential unfairness to members of the SLU community who smoke and the fact that it bans all tobacco use (instead of just smoking). However, as the Editorial Board already proposed similar reservations within the past year, this editorial will address how we as students received news of this policy’s progress through the University.
For those who may have missed it, the Nov. 3 email stated, “SGA and other university governing bodies are currently working to create a tobacco-free campus here at SLU … We are now looking for student support for the policy to be implemented.” Then the email asks students to take a survey – one we recommend you all take – that asks one question: “Do you support SLU being a tobacco-free campus?” and then contains a section for “comments, questions and concerns”. We also found that SGA would be hosting three open forums over the next weeks to discuss the tobacco-free policy.
For some on the Editorial Board, these messages sent out warning bells, while others thought the messages were simply meant to gather student opinions on the proposed policy. For those that heard the bells, their concern was that SGA was not only already working on a policy that would affect students without holding a vote on it, but that they were also now looking for “student support [for the policy].” Those that were concerned construed these messages as SGA implying it would implement this policy, regardless of what the survey shows, and support revealed by the survey would only be a rubber stamp on an already completed policy. Some were concerned about being in the dark regarding the policy, wondering where their input belonged.
Regardless of the intent of SGA’s messages, it seems there is a coalition in the University that is invested in seeing last year’s proposed policy implemented at SLU. This group was able to receive the endorsement of the Faculty Senate, which frankly surprised many of us, when one takes into consideration the number of faculty members that smoke on campus. Many on our Editorial Board are worried that administrators are now asking a rhetorical question to SGA and the students they represent: “You agree with us, right?”
Overall, there is concern from some of us that SGA is not adequately supporting the student voice, treating us as political capital in the larger goal of getting this policy implemented. Our primary concern is the ostensible failure in bringing students of diverse opinions to the table in the creation of this policy. Dean Trevathan knew there were individuals on the UNews’ last Editorial Board who were weary of this policy; rather than ask some to participate in policy revisions, he sought support elsewhere. While our University’s dedication to shared governance can be questioned, at least we’ll be tobacco free.