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Campus to go 'designated smoking areas' only

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April 13, 2010

Georgia College & State University will permit smoking only in designated areas on campus beginning June 1.

The policy, adopted by the University Senate in November and approved by President Dorothy Leland in January, prohibits anyone on campus from having a lighted tobacco product outside designated areas. This extends to university vehicles or grounds maintenance equipment.

Currently, smoking of any material is prohibited in all enclosed areas of buildings or facilities of the University System of Georgia and all other spaces owned or leased by the system. Smoking is also prohibited in any outside areas adjacent to a system facility whose configuration and/or other physical circumstances allow smoke either to enter or affect the internal environment or to adversely affect the environment of those entering or exiting.

Signs will be posted to identify the smoking areas on campus, and maps and other information will be made available to the campus and general community explaining the smoke-free status. The start date coincides with the beginning of the first term of summer classes, and it’s the university’s hope that this will give students, staff and the general public ample time to become aware of the change.

“The educational component of the change will be extremely important in the beginning,” said Dave Groseclose, associate vice president for public safety, which is charged with enforcing the policy. “Placing it in orientation packets and having it prominent at locations around campus will be a key. It’s going to take time to get people acclimated.”

Georgia College supports active smoking cessation programs and will provide assistance to students, staff and faculty who wish to curtail or eliminate their smoking through the Wellness Center. The center uses the American Lung Association’s “Freedom from Smoking Program.”

“We’ve been using it for two years,” said Dave Terrell, director of the center. “The next class will start June 1 to coincide with the implementation (of the new policy).”

The class is offered three times a year. Each class meets eight times over a seven-week period. Amy Whatley, program coordinator at the center, is the facilitator.

Whatley said 18 people participated in the classes in the past year. People interested in participating in the June session may contact her at 445-7500 or e-mail amy.whatley@gcsu.edu.

Possible changes in the campus smoking policy had been discussed in the Senate for the past couple of academic years without action. A resolution presented by the Student Government Association (SGA) helped push the issue to the forefront.

“We were receiving complaints from students that they had to walk through a smoke gauntlet to get into some classes,” said Zach Mullins, SGA president.  SGA polled students, Mullins said, and found that the majority backed a change that would prohibit smoking immediately outside campus facilities.

 “Around the residence halls, there’s been sort of an unspoken rule of no smoking within 30 feet of the entrances,” said Mullins. “We thought that would be a good way to present the issue (in polls). It was about a 60-40 split in favor of a change to something like that.”

A resolution with that language was adopted and passed by the SGA, and sent along to the senate for consideration. The senate’s Resources Planning and Institutional Policy Committee was charged with gathering more data, conducting its own survey and developing a policy statement detailing possible campus locations approved for smoking.

The senate committee brought together employees from Physical Plant, Public Safety, Human Resources and the College of Health Sciences to take the information collected and draft the policy, said Greg Brown, manager of parking and transportation services and the group’s facilitator.

Their survey mirrored that of the SGA poll with a 63-37 split of students and employees combined backing a change. The student survey split 62-38, while employees by a 69-31 margin.

The senate went a step further than the SGA with its resolution by establishing designated smoking areas on campus. Parking lots compose a majority of the space allotted to smokers. The new policy is similar to one implemented last fall at Kennesaw State University.

“The idea was to eliminate smoking completely in the main quad of campus and general pedestrian areas, yet allow smokers some place,” Brown said. “The parking lots seemed a simple solution. The other non-parking lot areas were added as a compromise to afford some on-campus locations.”

Although his division is charged with enforcing the new policy, Groseclose acknowledges that his officers will need help. At any given time, there are only two officers on patrol for the 60-plus acres of campus. There also are no sanctions for those not complying with the policy.

“If officers are on foot patrol and see people smoking outside a designated area, they’ll be reminded that they’re in a smoke-free area and need to find an acceptable receptacle for what they have,” he said. “If they continue to see the same person they’ve reminded repeatedly, they’ll have to get their name. If it’s a student, we’ll take it to the student judiciary, and, if it’s staff, we’ll take it up with their supervisor. That’s about all we can do.”

 Another tough spot with enforcement is the campus border. The smoke-free policy does not apply to any public sidewalks maintained or enforced by the City of Milledgeville, except in outside areas adjacent to a facility whose configuration and/or other physical circumstances allow smoke to affect the internal environment or to adversely affect those entering or exiting the facility.

 “That’s really a rub,” Groseclose said. “For example, we have the shelters for the (campus) shuttle on the city sidewalks. To me, those would be enforceable areas.”

 Then there are the areas around the university’s athletic fields at west campus. Although they are open-air, the spectator areas at the fields are smoke-free.

 “I feel 80 percent of enforcement is going to come from others, at least in the beginning,” Grosclose said. “Once someone gets reminded by another person like themselves a few times that they’re not in a designated area, it will make a difference.”

ABOUT GEORGIA COLLEGE: Georgia College, the state’s designated Public Liberal Arts University, combines the educational experience expected at esteemed private liberal arts colleges with the affordability of public higher education. Its four colleges – arts and sciences, business, education and health sciences – provide 6,600 undergraduate and graduate students with an exceptional learning environment that extends beyond the classroom, with hands-on involvement with faculty research, community service, study abroad and myriad internships.

Founded in 1889, Georgia College boasts one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation with Corinthian columns fronting red brick buildings and wide open green spaces. Georgia College also offers graduate education at the historic Jefferson building in downtown Macon, at Robins Air Force Base and online.

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For more information, contact University Communications at (478) 445-4477.


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