University forms taskforce, committee to discuss feasibility of initiative
If Healthy Carolina has its way, USC students will soon find themselves on a campus that bans the use of any kind of tobacco.
The “Tobacco Free USC” initiative was proposed by Healthy Carolina when the first tobacco policy was passed in 2006 that prohibits smoking within 25 feet of doorways. That policy was intended to start a transition to a completely tobacco-free campus.
No hookah, pipes or cigars, dip or snuff, cigarettes or anything of the like would be allowed under the initiative.
Healthy Carolina wants to see the policy go into action by 2013, but that seems unrealistic, as President Harris Pastides’ scheduled Thursday announcement of the university’s consideration of the initiative has been postponed, according to Healthy Carolina director Jessica Johnston. No timeline for the announcement is in sight, Johnston said.
The biggest question facing the initiative, aside from gathering feedback from the community, is how it would be enforced.
USC’s Division of Law Enforcement and Safety will be involved — Capt. Eric Grabski has been in on the conversations. But Grabski wouldn’t comment on how it would work of if it was even feasible, as the USC police spokesman had been instructed not to speak to media. He and Johnston, who also declined to comment beyond the announcement postponement, directed reporters instead to USC spokesman Wes Hickman.
Hickman doesn’t know how such a policy will be enforced either; that’s one of the aspects being researched. He said Thursday’s announcement had never been set in stone.
Several other universities, such as Emory University, have gone tobacco-free and USC is looking to follow in their footsteps.
The initiative has a ways to go. USC has put together a taskforce — headed by Pastides, Director of Student Development Gene Luna and Vice President for Student Affairs Dennis Pruitt, according to Mizzell — with multiple committees that are beginning to look more closely into creating and researching a policy and what it could mean for campus, Hickman said.
“This whole thing is really in the beginning stages,” Hickman said. “The taskforce has been created to dig through the details, to figure out student and faculty opinion, how to enforce such a policy and if it’s even feasible.”
Student Government has also created a committee alongside the administration to handle student opinion. So far, that committee hasn’t made any big decisions, but instead has been working on collecting student feedback, Mizzell said. They began doing research and taking surveys early this semester during SG’s annual Blitz Week, and 11 senators have been circulating through USC’s student organizations gathering information. SG has more than 700 surveys to date, and those results are set to be released in the next few weeks.
Mizzell refused to take a stand on the prospective policy, citing his position as vice president representing all students and his job running a senate full of students who feels both ways.
He said students are passionate about the issue, but then later said they swayed back and forth easily when SG members presented the initiative to them.
“There are so many sides,” Mizzell said. “Students tend to be malleable in their opinions based on the information presented and what they’re being exposed to. If there’s someone in front of them who personally smokes, they might say ‘OK I understand that.’”
While the undergraduates may be wavering, on Nov. 1, the Graduate Student Body unanimously resolved to support a 100 percent tobacco-free policy, even though one has yet to be proposed. Graduate Student Body President Andrew Dorsey is on the Tobacco-Free USC taskforce and believes that going tobacco-free is of extreme importance. A USC student for 8 years, Dorsey says that eliminating tobacco on campus has been a discussion for the past 20 years and that it’s time for a change.
“USC has always been perceived as leader,” Dorsey said. “It’s time we start leading South Carolina on this issue. People are shocked to hear we aren’t tobacco-free.”
The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation lists hundreds of schools across the country that have gone tobacco-free, including Auburn University and University of Florida. Clemson is also moving towards a tobacco-free campus, according to Dorsey.
If a policy is passed, USC will focus heavily on cessation programs that will be founded by a federal grant awarded to Healthy Carolina last year, Dorsey said.
“We’re not trying to punish people,” Dorsey said. “We want to help people quit, to make the campus healthier and to respect everyone’s right to a healthy environment.”
— Editor-in-Chief Colin Campbell contributed reporting