By Vince DeAngelo
INDIANA — Every day, students at Indiana University of Pennsylvania light up cigarettes. One problem: Smoking is prohibited on campus. Everywhere. Indoors and out.
IUP freshman Kevin D. Luke, a business major from Greensburg, Pa., and a smoker, expressed surprise and resignation when he learned about the surprise smoking ban imposed on all State System of Higher Education campuses.
“I look at it like music,” Luke said. “If you don’t like it, walk away.”
On Sept. 11, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Chancellor John C. Cavanaugh prohibited smoking on all 14 of the system’s campuses. The policy went beyond provisions of a state indoor-smoking ban that went into effect the same day by banning outdoor smoking, as well.
IUP students’ first official word about the ban came in an email from President Tony Atwater on Sept. 10, less then a day before the ban went into effect.
On Oct. 13, The HawkEye emailed an online survey to IUP students randomly selected by StudentVoice, an online polling service to which IUP subscribes.
Of 679 students who responded to the electronic survey by Oct. 31, 51 percent said they opposed the smoking ban; 49 percent said they supported it.
“There is no need for a smoking ban,” a student wrote in the survey’s comment section.
“Smoking is legal. Stop pretending it isn’t.”
Another student disagreed.
“As a non-smoker, I am in favor of the smoking-ban and feel it is better for me since I don’t have to inhale other’s smoke,” the student responded.
Twenty-five percent of respondents said they smoke tobacco. But by a nearly 2 to 1 margin – 65-35 percent – students said that they favored an alternative to the campus-wide smoking ban. The alternative – heated smoking huts – was proposed to the administration by a student study committee in spring 2008. story’s headline, which is: The smoking-hut proposal is not unprecedented, said one student survey respondent.
“At the school I transferred from, we had smoking huts,” the student said in the survey. “They were very nice for me and other students who do not smoke. That way, smokers can smoke, and everyone else can still breathe.”
Ashtrays have been removed campus-wide, which has resulted in a problem, according to students who replied to the survey.
“That’s where they messed up,” Luke said. “They took the ashtrays away, and now there are cigarette butts everywhere.
Students said they were uncertain about who is in charge of enforcing the smoking-ban.
“The ban seems not enforced, as I have continued to smoke on campus and no one has bothered to stop me or say anything to the contrary,” a respondent said.
On Sept. 25, a campus police officer said he was unaware of any fines given to smokers on campus. He also said that the IUP campus police are not responsible for enforcing the policy. The Pennsylvania Department of Health is responsible for that, according to the IUP Web Site.
Whether students are for or against the smoking-ban, it seems like the policy has a lot of problems that still need to be addressed, according to the respondents to the online survey. Freshmen are required to live on campus, and if they smoke, campus and state-system administrators are forcing smokers to make a decision.
“I don’t think they want people to start smoking,” Luke said. “After all, I started smoking when I got here.”
Sidebar: The survey questions
Following is the questionnaire emailed on Oct. 13 to a random sample of IUP students. Results include responses from 679 students who responded by Oct. 31. The survey was administered by StudentVoice, a survey service to which IUP subscribes.
Question 1: Do you smoke tobacco?
Results: Yes [25.48% – 173] No [74.52% – 506]
Question 2: On Sept. 10, 2008, IUP President Tony Atwater emailed IUP students, faculty and staff to announce that smoking was prohibited on campus as of Sept. 11, 2008. Subsequent emails from Sutton Hall clarified that the smoking ban exceeded the state’s indoor-smoking ban and applied to every spot on campus, indoors and out.
Do you support this campus-wide smoking ban?
Results: Yes [49.19% – 334] No [50.81% – 345]
Question 3: In spring 2008, a committee of IUP dormitory residents studying smoking on campus recommended to administrators that a handful of heated ”smoking huts” be built around campus to permit smokers to smoke, separated from non-smokers.
Would you prefer an alternative such as this over the campus-wide smoking ban adopted on Sept. 11, 2008?
Results: Yes [64.95% – 441] No [35.05% – 238]
Question 4: Please share your thoughts, cares or concerns regarding the smoking ban: (Please limit responses to one or two complete sentences.)
Results: 486 Respondents
— Vince DeAngelo
Sidebar: Smoking ban update
When the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education banned cigarette smoking indoors and outdoors on its 14 campuses statewide, the Sept. 11 announcement was greeted with protest on some campuses and with a grievance filed by unionized workers.
The 5,900-member Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties filed the grievance alleging unfair labor practices. APSCUF representatives said the ban was implemented without negotiation, contrary to their collective bargaining agreement with the SSHE.
In December, union reps said they had met in confidential talks with the state system about the smoking ban. A state Labor Relations Board officer heard union objections at a Dec. 23 hearing in Harrisburg. A decision on the hearing was not expected before February. The decision would be subject to board review and court appeal.
The faculty union has not taken a position on whether outdoor smoking should be banned.
Meanwhile, news reports said state-system administrators in mid-December were proposing amendments to the ban to permit smoking on the fringes of campuses and on sidewalks adjacent to public-access roads. They also reportedly were considering allowing employees to smoke in their cars with the windows up.
At IUP, a Dec. 12 campus-wide email from Helen Kennedy, associate vice president for human resources, announced that urns for cigarette butts would be placed around the perimeter of the campus at the start of the spring 2009 semester. Kennedy also reported that IUP would enforce the policies. Earlier announcements designated the state Health Department as the agency responsible for enforcing the smoking ban.
— Dave Loomis