Stark: Undergraduate and graduate student and the USG were informed, involved in development of tobacco policy

To the editor,

I was disappointed to see the front-page story in the Dec. 4 issue of The Observer claiming a lack of student input on a proposal to make the campus tobacco-free. I rarely respond to articles in the student newspaper, but when facts are ignored and an article is misleading, it is necessary to set the record straight.

Here are the facts:

  1. The review process for this idea began with students. During the 2011-2012 school year, President Barbara R. Snyder asked Undergraduate Student Government (USG) leaders if they could help her get a sense of student attitudes on the subject before the process of developing a proposal even began. USG conducted a survey showing that 59 percent of students supported a smoke-free campus; its Student Life committee recommended that the university continue to explore the issue. (The survey results appeared in the Nov. 16, 2012 edition of The Observer.)
  2. When a draft policy began to take form in 2013, campus wellness leader and faculty member Elizabeth Click presented it first to USG in March of that year. She returned again in 2013, in 2014 and in 2015.
  3. In 2014, as part of student voting in USG elections, the organization also asked students to cast non-binding ballots regarding going tobacco-free. This time, 52 percent of students supported the idea, 34.5 percent opposed. As reported in the April 4 issue of The Observer, roughly 13 percent were neutral or had no opinion.
  4. During the 2014-2015 academic year, several subcommittees were formed to work on pieces of a proposed policy. Both undergraduate and graduate students served on these subcommittees.
  5. This fall Case Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Stan Gerson, MD, met with USG to provide information on the scientific basis for the policy.
  6. Opportunities for input have not been limited to undergraduates: Graduate students also have received multiple briefings, as has the Faculty Senate and the Staff Advisory Council.

If the university ultimately adopts a tobacco-free policy, President Snyder and I remain steadfastly committed to including students in the implementation process. I look forward to seeing future coverage in The Observer of this issue return to the high standards demonstrated over the past few years.

Lou Stark
Vice President for Student Affairs