Vas Mathur / Sun Staff Photographer

Gabriel Kaufman '18 speaks at the University Assembly meeting on Tuesday.

September 20, 2016

University Assembly Explores Changing Cigarette, Tobacco Policy

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The University Assembly discussed tasking the Campus Welfare standing committee with investigating cigarette and tobacco use on campus and its meeting Tuesday.

Alex Iglesias ’17, the undergraduate who put forward the proposal to investigate tobacco use on campus, said he is hoping to begin a long-term discussion of the drug’s place on campus.

“I would like for the Campus Welfare committee, other committees within other assemblies such as the Student Assembly’s Health and Wellness Committee, the Student Assembly Environmental Committee, the GPSA’s Student Advocacy Committee, and any other committee that is willing to get involved with this conversation,” Iglesias said. “And I would like for us to have a conversation about existing tobacco policies and some form of improving them.”

Iglesias highlighted the cautious and gradual nature of his proposal, citing the fact that over 1,000 other colleges have initiated policies to limit tobacco in some way.

“I’m definitely calling for a change in the existing policies, I am just not advocating for a tobacco-free campus,” Iglesias said.

The proposal was received very favorably by the Assembly, with discussion mostly focused on how to make the proposal move more quickly.

S.A. Representative Rebecca Herz ’18 began deliberations by focusing discussion on the current policy, which only allows smoking more than 25 feet from building entrances — although much remains at the discretion of the building manager — and about how severely this policy is enforced.

“To my knowledge, there is no enforcement of the current policy,” Iglesias said. “[Environmental Health and Safety] and department heads have the ability to enforce it, but CUPD does not.”

The general response from the members of the Undergraduate Assembly was positive, and many members expressed their desire for the investigation to include concrete recommendations or policy language.

Dean of Faculty Charles Van Loan spoke in favor of introducing specific recommendations to advance the policy.

“I think you should say in advance that ‘we’re going to have a study and make recommendations’,” he said. “It’s inconceivable to me that you would do all this research and not make recommendations.”

Ulysses Smith, the Employee Assembly chair and Campus Welfare Committee chair, expressed his support for the CWC in tackling the issue of tobacco on campus. He said he saw the committee as well-situated to best engage the whole of Cornell in dialog.

“As far as the policy ultimately, [a committee] can give recommendations and I would strongly encourage the product of this investigation come with not only recommendations but a draft of language to use,” he said. “That would speed up the process.”

Smith stressed that this discussion should extend beyond the University Assembly to include more diverse viewpoints and opinons, suggesting that the topic be circulated in muliple facets of student and employee groups.

“I do think in addition to this, I think it’s prudent that we go back to our respective assemblies and consider this individually,” he said. “Because I think discussions will be very different.”

The motion passed the assembly unanimously, with a vote of 13-0-0. Moving forward, Iglesias sees investigation and broad discussion as the next steps in ensuring a better tobacco policy on campus.

“I have no clue what to expect over the next few months, but I’m excited to see progress happening,” he said.