Adams announces policy to ban tobacco
On Sunday, April 22, the Student Government Association (SGA) welcomed President William “Bro” Adams and Dean of Students Jim Terhune for the semester Dean’s Report.
Citing the Board of Trustees’ growing concern with accountability, including academic and social accountability in student life, Adams expressed a desire to develop a task force in the Fall of 2012. “Without focused conversation and meditation on this [issue], I don’t think we will get further than we’ve gotten,” he explained. “So that’s the next step.”
A motion including students, faculty and administration will be initiated in the coming weeks. In addition to making policy recommendations about student responsibility to the Board of Trustees, the motion will review the broad issues of accountability and how the student body addresses them.
Adams applauded 2011-12 SGA members for having put this issue front and center. “I would say that the leadership of this group on this question has been enormously impressive and important to the board and to me…and was critical in getting us to this point,” he said.
Though the administration realized that it would be a controversial decision, Adams announced plans for the campus to move toward becoming a tobacco-free community over a two-year period. Inclusive of both faculty and students, the policy will be implemented because of “concern about the health and welfare of our employees and the students.”
Beginning in September, the administration will execute the policy through a phased approach by further restricting places on campus where tobacco can be used, with four or five spaces where smoking is permitted. By Sept. 2013, the College hopes to be entirely tobacco-free. “We have been tightening the restrictions on the use of tobacco on campus for about a decade, and this is a direction that many institutions are going in,” Adams said.
Acknowledging that this change will be a trying adjustment for some, the administration promised to provide support for programs that help people move away from dependence on tobacco products. Adams is “eager…to work with students on the implementation of this policy.”
Responding to East Quad Dorm President Monica Davis’s ’13 question regarding enforcement of the policy, Adams said, “We all have to be enforcers of this…I think the most powerful expression of enforcement will be the weight of public opinion.”
Class of 2015 Co-President Justin Deckert expressed his concern that tobacco users will begin to smoke inside dorms as a result of a tobacco ban. Relating the policy to the issue of student accountability, Adams replied that students should stand up for themselves in that instance because “that’s a much more direct threat to your health,” he said.
The idea of a phased tobacco ban evoked mixed responses from SGA members. “I think it’s a personal choice, and I personally don’t think the College should be telling people what they can or cannot do in their personal lives,” Marriner Dorm President Bowen Tretheway ’14 said. “We’re all old enough to know the health concerns and risks.”
On the other hand, Class of 2012 Co-President Tracy Tomlinson said, “It just seems really out of place when you see somebody smoking at Colby.” Class of 2014 Co-President Cole Yaverbaum ’14 expressed a similar sentiment. “Students have a right to make their own decisions, but we also have a right to not have to smell that and not be exposed to it,” Yaverbaum said.
Despite contention on the issue, Adams remained resolute in his determination to see the tobacco ban implemented. “When I got here in 2000, we were still selling cigarettes in the Pub over the counter, and early on in my time here…I said we were going to stop doing this,” he said. “There was a big pushback and it had to do with this question of rights. We got through it, and I think it was the right thing to do.”
Upon the conclusion of the Dean’s Report, SGA began discussing other changes pertinent to the upcoming school year, namely the selection of a 2012-13 Executive Board. President-elect Morgan Lingar ’13 and Vice President-elect Kareem Kalil ’13 appointed Monica Davis ’13 as Publicity Chair, Rachel Jacobs ’13 as Parliamentarian, Jack Mauel ’13 as Residential Life Chair and Anna Caron ’13 as Secretary. The selections received unanimous approval from the President’s Council.
Piper Dorm President Ginger Brooker ’14 proposed the instatement of an independent OASIS dorm president, since the specialty housing is situated on one floor of a larger dorm. As the third floor of East Quad next year, OASIS residents may have different concerns and opinions than other residents in the dorm, and she was concerned about the difficulty for one dorm president to represent all constituents.
Davis opposed this initiative, believing that “as a campus, we should be able to go out of our comfort zone and interact as a community,” but SGA Co-President Justin Rouse ’12 agreed that “when there are differences in lifestyle, it makes it difficult to have all the opinions heard.” After an extremely close roll-call vote, the motion passed.
Rouse announced the recipient of the Cole Harvey Award, an annual honor given to an SGA member who displays particular initiative and dedication. Yaverbaum, who Rouse described as “both [a] creative and a wonderful leader,” accepted the 2012 award.
Rouse also emphasized the importance of SGA approachability and receptiveness. Responding to recent posts about SGA in the Digest of Civil Discourse, he said, “There are always things that we can work on as a group….We are always open.” He stressed the sincerity of SGA members in wanting “to be a voice of the students they represent, and…doing everything they can to be that voice.”