SGA discusses survey about smoking policy

By DRAKE FOREMAN | April 26, 2018

At their weekly meeting on Tuesday, the Student Government Association (SGA) discussed the results of the smoking policy survey they conducted.

For the past year, SGA has debated the implementation of a smoking ban on campus. Currently there is no singular smoking policy on campus, but rather each building has its own regulations. 

SGA is working on a proposal that represents the wishes of students at the Homewood Campus.

To gain information about students’ thoughts on the smoking policy, SGA used a survey created by employees at the Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW). The survey asked about use of tobacco and other smoking products on campus, as well as students’ awareness of the current smoking policy and their stance on further restrictions. 

Kush Mansuria, junior class senator, expressed concerns that the survey’s limited time span did not give students enough time to give feedback.

“The fact that this was done in just two days seems very rushed,” Mansuria said. “We should also find other means of advertising the survey rather than just email, to elicit a wider student body response.”

The results of the survey will help inform SGA’s decisions. 

The survey had 622 responses. AJ Tsang, executive vice president of SGA, analyzed the survey results. He said that the demographic breakdown of the survey was fairly representative of the student body, with each class contributing to about 25 percent of the survey data. 

The survey revealed that about 50 percent of the surveyed students know what the current smoking policy is on campus. 

A large portion of students believe that the current policy is not well enforced, and 75 percent of the students surveyed support restrictions on tobacco usage on campus. 

One major concern expressed by those in favor of the smoking ban was the effect of secondhand smoke on their health.

Oppositions to smoking restrictions include concerns about infringing on others’ personal liberty and autonomy.

Some SGA members expressed concerns about the validity of the survey results. These members questioned if 622 students accurately represented the entire student undergraduate population.

Following the discussion about the smoking ban survey, representatives from the student organization Engineers Without Borders presented a bill for funding a trip to Guatemala. The bill was initially tabled two weeks ago.

Engineers without Borders is planning its trip to Guatemala to help set up a water system to provide clean water for the country’s residents. They asked SGA to help fund their trip.

The funding bill was referred to the finance committee for later decisions. 

SGA also discussed the lack of students running for open SGA positions. In addition to sixty-four percent of SGA members leaving at the end of the year, all the freshmen are running unopposed and there is only one person running for the senior council.

Senior Class President Kwame Alston, along with other senior members, believes that the lack of student interest in joining SGA is related to a change in its reputation. Alston believes SGA used to have more power and autonomy as well as a more social atmosphere.

Other students, such as Senior Class Senator Mieraf Teka, stressed the importance of improving the organization next year.

“Going forward, I would suggest we try to form an environment where everyone feels comfortable enough to voice their own opinion,” she said.

Aspen Williams, freshman class senator, stated that she thinks that SGA is most effective when there are more students running for elections.

“When there is more competition, we can hold ourselves more accountable and have more motivation,” she said.

Rushabh Doshi, executive secretary, suggested that increasing the number of senators will decrease the time commitment for students in SGA.

Others, including Coco Cai, freshman class senator, believes that the key to increasing interest among the student body to run for SGA is to make the running process more accessible.

“I think the major reason why students don’t apply for SGA stems from transparency issues,” she said. “A lot of people I talk to don’t know what we actually do and don’t know how many meetings we have.”

Cai also suggested that SGA stream their meetings via the internet to increase transparency.

Finally, Olivia Cigarroa, sophomore class senator, expressed hope for next year’s SGA, saying that the current freshmen have contributed to the progress that the organization has made this past year.

“You [freshmen] have brought such an amazing energy, and I think you have been engaged, thorough and creative,” she said. “Keep up the energy as much as you can for next year, since you will be the momentum that will keep us going.”

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