GCCC trustees move toward tobacco-free campus





A tobacco-free campus is on the horizon at Garden City Community College.

At Tuesday's Board of Trustees meeting, by a unanimous vote, trustees directed the administration to adopt a tobacco-free campus policy by Jan. 1, 2014.

Using the Student Government Association's most recent proposal for a tobacco-free campus, trustees suggested that GCCC President Herbert Swender use his discretion to make necessary changes to the policy and then implement it.

The discussion regarding a tobacco-free campus began several years ago and initially resulted in a policy prohibiting smoking within 50 feet of building entrances on campus. Since then, the Student Government Association has presented several proposals to trustees, aimed at prohibiting the use of tobacco products altogether.

Last May, GCCC President Herbert Swender asked SGA to conduct a survey of both students and employees, after the faculty raised what he termed as "legitimate concerns" regarding SGA's most recent proposal for a tobacco-free policy. He said the recommendation of the administration then would be to support the statistical response of the majority of respondents.

On Tuesday night, Swender presented the findings of the survey, which indicated an even split of those for and against a tobacco-free campus.

"I had this verified three times because it doesn't make sense, but these are the numbers," Swender said, at which point he opened the topic up for discussion, asking trustees for their input, saying that they, too, have a vested interest in the campus.

For purposes of opening discussion, Trustee Dr. William Clifford made a motion directing Swender to adopt a tobacco-free policy by Jan. 1, 2014.

After seconding Clifford's motion, Trustee Jeff Crist said his concern with the policy is enforcement, and he said the policy needs to be fine-tuned.

"As far as the administration's direction, if we have a policy, we're going to enforce it to the best of our ability," Swender said. "I think if they get caught, we have consequences in place, for first offense, second offense and third — there's consequences."

Terry Lee, president of the faculty senate and a science instructor at the college, also raised objections to the policy.

"I detest smoking, but I think the policy as it's written eliminates even having tobacco in your car. I think that's way overboard," Lee said. "I think it might be good, but I also think we're stepping on some rights of people. I'm not sure we should adopt a policy that takes away that person's right."

Trustee Terri Worf agreed, saying that the wording of the policy was excessive, but she was for a tobacco-free campus, as were all of the other trustees.

SGA President Brevan Woydziak told trustees that dealing with the issue now will address it now and forever.

"You'll have a lot of time to fine-tune this thing, so I think this is the perfect time to implement it," Woydziak said. "And as time goes on, it will just create a culture of not smoking."

Merilyn Douglass, trustee chair, said the tobacco-free policy is in line with the vision for the campus.

"It's got to start somewhere. I believe starting with the policy gives the groundwork for the enforcement to happen. I agree it's going to be tough, but we've got to start somewhere," Douglass said. "I would like to see the campus tobacco-free."

The trustees ultimately approved the motion "instructing the CEO to adopt a tobacco-free campus with this (tobacco-free) policy as the basis for proceeding Jan. 1, 2014."

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