Written by: LaMarcus Wilkerson
Four VSU students and faculty members took the stage Wednesday night in Jennett Lecture Hall to debate the new policy prohibiting the use of tobacco on campus, a policy that was approved by the University System of Georgia.
On Wednesday, March 19, the USG’s Board of Regents voted in favor of banning tobacco use on all college campuses under their jurisdiction.
The Tobacco and Smoke-Free Campus Policy will go into effect Oct. 1, 2014.
The policy bans all forms of tobacco, including those that are smokeless and electronic. All students, faculty, staff and other individuals on USG properties must follow this rule or suffer the consequences enforced by the president of each institution.
The USG will allow VSU President, Dr. William McKinney, to create the enforcement rules of this policy. The question of enforcement was discussed Wednesday night at the debate.
VSU Police Chief Scott Doner said the new policy is going to be more of a disciplinary measure than a criminal proceeding.
Doner made the distinction that this was a policy not a law, so it’s not something that will be enforced by university police, who only enforce laws.
At the beginning of the spring semester, the USG Student Advisory Council, made up of all SGA presidents in Georgia, conducted a survey to see how students felt about banning tobacco at USG institutions. The survey was conducted on campus for a few weeks and showed that a majority of the student body was opposed to the tobacco-free policy.
The survey shows that 44 percent of VSU students strongly oppose tobacco prohibition, whereas 33 percent strongly support the banning of all tobacco products. Some students prefer to meet higher-ups halfway.
“I agree that a policy must be implemented and enforced; however, I believe that designated areas around our campus would be the best solution for our community,” one VSU student said in the survey.
However, there are some that don’t really see tobacco use on campus as an essential problem for the university.
“Why are they so focused on this instead of looking at issues like book prices?” Dr. David Nelson, communications professor, said.
Some individuals, such as SGA President William Jimerson, remain neutral on the topic.
“I’m in between,” Jimerson said. “There’s no exact side that I can choose… I can see why people are for (the policy) and why people are against (it).”
According to Jimerson, the policy is not only supposed to promote health but is also an educational campaign generated by the USG.