GPSA seeks compromise in all-campus tobacco ban

From staff reports

Addressing a potential new rule on WSU Pullman’s campus that has gained almost no support from graduate students, the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) met Monday night and discussed the next step in the ongoing issue of the tobacco ban.

About 200 people gathered in the CUB’s junior ballroom for a presentation that outlined adverse effects of an all-campus tobacco ban on graduate students, most of whom oppose the idea of a ban.

The new rules would ban all forms of tobacco consumption, including chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes.

GPSA President Nathan Neale said a number of students have complained about the university’s tobacco-free policy changes.

Neale said GPSA wasn’t informed about the referendum until after it had passed, and as such did not have enough time to put it on the GPSA ballot last year.

Covering all streets, buildings and even fields considered school property, the ban will effectively drive anyone who wants to smoke off campus, if they follow the rule.

Neale also expressed concern regarding a task force open forum on Jan. 22 in place of the December forum they canceled.

“Many students voiced their concern that the actual forum held in January was not adequately advertised, so they didn’t know they’d missed the chance to voice their opinions,” Neale said. “I attended, and felt that mine and other voices were simply ignored.”

The ban is meant to improve the general health and air quality of campus, and once proposed, Health and Wellness conducted an online survey to evaluate student opinions.

The results yielded opposing views between undergraduate and graduate students.

“The survey says 90 percent said they haven’t smoked in the last 30 days, but then it says 80 percent say they think people are smoking regularly,” said research assistant Daniel Plotnick, who led the presentation. “Clearly, less people are smoking on campus than everyone thinks.”

Many of the arguments against the ban included the lack of accessibility to the drafts and easily exploited online survey techniques used to create a statistical backing – one person called the ban a “waste of police time and resources.”

After the presentation, there was a unanimous agreement to try and sway the WSU Board of Regents’ opinion regarding the ban before they vote May 8.

Neale said the GPSA will draft a letter to ask administration to consider the views and rights of all WSU stakeholders and not just the majority.

“We will be placing a referendum on our annual ballot next month, where we expect that a much larger percentage of students will vote when compared to the flawed survey previously administered,” Neale said.

Neale said the GPSA will ask for smoking areas away from heavily trafficked zones and ash trays to be moved 25 feet or more away from building entrances.

Reporting by Shane Michard and Fletcher Bailey