Webster’s Student Government Association (SGA) voted 13-to-two to move toward a student vote that could make Webster a smoke-free campus.
The vote set in motion a referendum process that will, if approved by Student Life and administration, see a smoke-free policy on the spring SGA ballot.
“This is a smoke-free policy…basically banning of any and all smoking and tobacco from Webster’s campus,” said SGA President Caroline Wiley. “This isn’t SGA saying this is what’s going to happen, this is SGA asking students ‘is this what you want to happen?’”
The majority of the association members present at the meeting voted in favor of a referendum. The referendum will still need to be reviewed by the Office of Student Life and approved for the spring ballots by president Elizabeth Stroble and provost Julian Schuster.
Dean of Student Life Ted Hoef said he would review the referendum before sending it on to administration.
SGA Vice President Taylor Robison said the vote would be important and that students should have a say in what type of things they breathe in on campus.
“We need to value the health of our students, regardless if they’re 15 feet or 20 feet from the door. It’s just not a healthy environment,” Robison said. “As long as you’re smelling smoke you’re inhaling things. That’s why I think it’s important that this is a student decision to decide whether or not they want this to be a smoke-free campus.”
Currently, Webster’s smoking policy requires students to stand 30 feet away from any building entrance. SGA School of Communications Senator Kara Paar said she sees people smoking directly outside of doors.
Wiley was on the committee that drafted the policy. She said she researched many schools and had trouble finding universities that were not smoke-free campuses. She said the only local university besides Webster that allows smoking was St. Louis University.
Wiley said if the new policy is passed, students will still be able to smoke inside of their vehicles as long as it does not bother any nearby students. She added that there would be an opportunity to get special permission for certain circumstances where a student would need to smoke.
The policy would apply to faculty, staff and students, and any issues or violations would be handled by Public Safety. It is unclear what sort of consequences there would be if a member of the university’s community was caught smoking on campus.
Smoking issues have been brought up at several Delegates’ Agendas in past semesters. At the Fall 2015 Delegates’ Agenda, students asked for the university to review the smoking policy and how it was being enforced on campus.
Wiley said it would be premature to release the text of the proposed ban passed by SGA at the March 1 meeting. She said the language would most likely change during the referendum process and did not want to cause any confusion.
The last time Webster voted on a ballot referendum was in 2014. That referendum was to increase the student activities fee and was passed, raising the fee from $20 to $100.