Yisu Zheng / Sun Staff Photographer

A cigarette disposal bin near Uris Library may no longer be of much use if the campus votes to launch a two-year initiative to become tobacco-free and if President Martha E. Pollack approves the possible results of the referendum.

April 26, 2018

Referendum on Tobacco-Free Campus Postponed, Now Planned for Fall Semester as Survey

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The non-binding referendum on whether Cornell should launch a two-year initiative to become tobacco-free, originally planned for this spring, is now slated to take place as a survey this fall.

Gabe Kaufman ’18, chair of the University Assembly, told The Sun in January that the referendum was planned for the March Student Assembly elections.

However, logistical issues due to the S.A. and the Student-Elected Trustee elections complicated the process, according to Joseph Anderson ’20, chair of the Campus Welfare Committee and an undergraduate representative to the University Assembly.

Bruce A. Roebal masters of ILR ’89, arts and sciences representative to the Employee Assembly and a member of the CWC, told The Sun that he hopes to send out a non-binding survey during the fall semester to take the “pulse” of the Cornell community on the issue.

The survey will be presented to all students, faculty and staff, according to Roebal.

While the wording of the main question has not yet been finalized, Roebal said it will essentially ask “Should Cornell launch a two-year initiative to become tobacco-free?”

The survey is also expected to include the following explanation: “The goal [of the referendum] is to create a healthier university community and foster a campus culture in which tobacco users are supported in their efforts to adapt or quit through awareness events, smoking cessation support programs and community engagement.”

Roebal also acknowledged that Skorton Medical Center staff members helped with the survey process. Laura Santacrose ’11, assistant director of the Skorton Center for Health Initiatives, told The Sun that staff are assisting to create survey questions “designed to explore campus attitudes and behaviors related to the use of cigarettes, e-cigs and other related devices.”

Santacrose explained that the survey may include more than a simple yes-no question.

“A survey could gather details about our community’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviors as they relate to the use of smoking and vaping products,” Santacrose said, adding that the information would provide more “nuanced data” regarding the possibility of a tobacco-free or vaping-free campus.

The results will be communicated to President Pollack, who will make the final decision, according to Anderson.

“Again, the referendum solely gauges community feelings around the idea of a tobacco-free campus and a two-year wellness initiative,” he said.

The idea of Cornell becoming tobacco-free was first referred to the CWC by the U.A. in September 2016, The Sun previously reported. The CWC consulted with constituents, Tompkins County officials and Cornell Health before recommending a referendum, which was adopted by the U.A. last May through U.A. Resolution 9.

After Pollack said she did not support a clause in the resolution that would make the referendum’s results binding, Anderson confirmed that the committee opted to abandon the initial binding clause. This means the University will not be required to honor the results of the survey this fall.

Anderson believes that the delay, which also comes after several members of the E.A. expressed concerns about inter-assembly communication regarding the referendum at a meeting in January, shows “a commitment to seeing this issue through.”

“We are making sure that each major constituency (undergraduate students, graduate and professional students, employees, and faculty) understand the referendum process,” he said.