Senate to Host Forums in order to Dispel Rumors, Seek Input on Tobacco Ban

Rachel Weinstein, News Editor

Despite a semester of setbacks, Student Senate continues to reform the College’s smoking policy in hopes of voting on its amendments before the end of the semester.

Last updated on March 14, the proposed policy appears on the Office of Student Wellness website, with a bolded disclaimer stating, “This policy is still in progress and is subject to change.”

The proposed policy consists of five sections that explicitly outline the terms of the potential change in policy. Within these sections, the policy elaborates on the locations where smoking would be prohibited, a definition of tobacco and otherwise banned products, the prohibition of accepting money or gifts from tobacco companies by student organizations and a ban of tobacco advertisements on College grounds.

Student Senators Machmud Makhmudov, College sophomore and Peter Arden, College junior, primarily organized the initiative. College sophomore and first-term Student Senator Mia Wallace has also been involved.

“As associate liaison, part of my job is organizing the student referendum, and I’m currently trying to gather information on how people are perceiving this and figure out what kind of questions should be included in the referendum,” Wallace said. “A big part of that is informing myself and working with students first hand with their feelings about the change in policy.”

Wallace explained that Student Senate plans to further clarify the updated policy to students in an upcoming forum.

“Student Senate is hosting a series of three forums, one of which will specifically address the proposed tobacco policy,” Wallace said. “I’m hoping to have the referendum launched by next week, and it will include language about the tobacco policy and getting student input before we vote a few weeks from now. We’ve been getting a lot of informal feedback from the student body, but we want to get more formal responses [through the series of forums].”

Wallace said that Senate will further discuss the details of the forum in weekly plenary.

“I’m planning the series but am waiting to get feedback from the rest of forum,” Wallace said. “[What] I hope to do is answer questions and clarify what the proposed policy would

entail. Calling it a ban isn’t really fair because it’s really a policy change. I want to explain what this proposal is and what it isn’t.”

According to a recent poll featured on the Review’s website, the issue remains heated on campus. Prefacing the proposed policy, the Office of Student Wellness writes, “Achieving a tobacco-free environment requires support from all members of Oberlin College. College officials will develop and maintain a plan for communicating the policy to their constituents including, but not limited to, students, college employees, contractors, vendors, and visitors.”

Makhmudov and Wallace both expressed the growing popularity of banning tobacco on campuses across the country. In the last two years, hundreds of institutions have enacted the policy, including the University of Michigan, Emory University and Colby College. On Wednesday, Illinois state lawmakers voted to ban smoking at all public universities, colleges and community colleges, a measure already implemented in Arkansas, Iowa and Oklahoma.