Administration, students reflect on smoke-free first year

(Alexander Simone | The Oswegonian)
“Oswego Quits” campaign celebrates a year of a smoke and tobacco free campus in the Marano Campus Center through tabling and photo opportunities.(Alexander Simone | The Oswegonian)

January 2016 marked the one-year anniversary of Oswego State’s transition to a smoke and tobacco free campus.

According to the Smoke Free/Tobacco Free Policy that can be found on the Oswego State website, the policy is intended to “prohibit smoking of any kind and other uses of tobacco products on campus, at extension campuses, at all indoor and outdoor events, college sponsored programs and activities off campus, in personally owned vehicles parked on campus and all vehicles and equipment owned, leased or operated by the College and its affiliate organizations.”

Since the policy was implemented last year, students, faculty and staff have been encouraged to abandon their smoking habits in order to promote a more healthy and clean environment on campus.

However, according to some Oswego State officials, the policy is expected to be “self-regulated,” with faculty members and the campus community telling each other to put out their cigarettes if they happen to pass by someone who is smoking.

This means that University Police and Residence Life staff, such as Resident Assistants, are not required to enforce the policy throughout campus.

“Our only involvement was being on the committee,” said University Police Chief John Rossi. “We are not taking enforcement action on violations of the policy and we have not received any complaints since it was initiated.”

Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, Jerald Woolfolk took over as chairwoman of the Smoke and Tobacco-Free committee in January 2014. The committee, according to Woolfolk, was made up of students, faculty, staff and union representatives.

“What we wanted to do was have people self-enforce,” Woolfolk said. “To some degree that has been working, but of course there will be some people who do not follow the policy and smoke when they get a chance.”

Woolfolk explained the reason for the “self-enforced” policy was related to the values of the university.

“This is an educational institution and what we try to do is to get students to understand how to make choices that are helpful for them,” Woolfolk said. “It’s all part of that learning process and it takes time.”

Assistant Vice President for Residence Life and Housing, Richard Kolenda, agrees that it is up to the community to enforce the policy.

“We’re all part of this community and we should all make sure that we uphold what this smoking policy or this no-tobacco policy says,” he said.

When it comes to Resident Assistants, Kolenda said that their role has not changed. If they are confronted with a smoking violation in or around their building, they should still take the necessary steps as an RA that they would have before the policy change.

“They are students, and as a student they should say something,” Kolenda said. “They are not required as an RA. That’s not in their real jurisdiction to go behind the library and do that. As a student, every student should say something, every faculty member, every staff member. It is a comprehensive way of saying to this community that we don’t expect to have tobacco in this community. We’re all responsible for doing that.”

Woolfolk realizes that this may be an uncomfortable expectation for some.

“It’s the same thing when you do bystander intervention,” Woolfolk said. “You do that at your own comfort.”

Students have varying opinions on the policy and its effectiveness in the year since it was implemented.

“I don’t think it has been effective. I still smoke on campus all the time,” said senior Helena Kaszluga. “I’ve been told one time on this bench outside the campus center that there was a no smoking policy but that was about it.”

Others don’t have as strong of opinions about the policy.

“I’m not a smoker and don’t like being around people that are smoking,” said sophomore Shannon Bogaski. “But if it’s outside, you don’t smell it that much and people are going to do it anyways.”

When it comes to people outside of the campus community, Woolfolk acknowledges that there are no signs surrounding the campus or at the entrance that this is a smoke and tobacco-free campus. Plans are being discussed to change that.

“We’re talking about designing some signs and getting signs at the entrances of the campus and in the parking lots and at different places so that people will know that this is smoke-free,” Woolfolk said. “It’s still very much a community situation where as a community we have decided we are going to be tobacco-free and it will take the entire community to make sure that people adhere to that.”