MSA votes yes for smoke-free campus

The group also provided support for a student’s mental health website.

Tyler Gieseke

Two weeks ago, the Minnesota Student Association voted down a position statement supporting a tobacco-free campus.

But on Tuesday, MSA approved a resolution to support a smoke-free campus.

The resolution passed 33-12 and states that MSA will provide input and feedback to the Student Health Advisory Committee as it works to design and implement a smoke-free campus policy. During the meeting, MSA also awarded the second half of a $10,000 grant to finance senior Adam Moen, who is using the funds to create an online mental health resource for students.

The Nov. 13 position statement became a resolution after it was changed to include an action — that MSA will provide feedback to SHAC.

Before coming to forum, the resolution was also changed to include data showing that more than half of University of Minnesota students are in favor of a campus-wide smoking ban. It also stated none of the 825 campuses around the country that put similar policies in place have retracted them.

The resolution was amended during forum to support a “smoke-free” instead of a “tobacco-free” campus.

Kyle Kroll, MSA representative to the Board of Regents, who proposed the amendment, said he didn’t think it was MSA’s role to dictate individuals’ choices unless those choices harmed others — for example, with secondhand smoke.

The authors of the resolution approved the amendment without debate.

Heidi Rieck, a member of SHAC and co-author of the resolution, said she consulted with Tim Bell, a senior health advocate at Boynton Health Service, and they agreed it would be better to pass a smoke-free resolution than to pass nothing at all.

Although the resolution passed with a strong majority, some members still opposed the amended resolution.

“This is a resolution to limit people’s freedom to smoke,” said Phillip Kelly.

Kelly also asked what MSA will do if, in the future, the student body says that it doesn’t want a smoke-free campus.

“There’s nothing that stops MSA from coming back and changing our minds,” said MSA President Taylor Williams.

Rieck said SHAC has been working to gather support for the initiative from student groups. She said MSA’s support was an achievement because it represents the undergraduate student body.

“It was a big deal for us,” she said.

Improving the U

MSA also voted unanimously to give the second $5,000 of the Improve U grant to Adam Moen, who received the first half after being selected by MSA last spring.

The grant was created by MSA last year to aid an individual or group attempting to improve the University community, said Sophie Wallerstedt, MSA speaker of the forum.

Inspired by his own struggle with depression and alcohol abuse and responding to a growing campus-wide demand for Boynton’s Mental Health Services, Moen used the money to launch a website two weeks ago where students can discuss mental health concerns anonymously.

OURspace features chat rooms, connections to mental health resources and videos on 11 different subjects like alcohol, depression, anxiety and academic troubles.

Moen said his site has had about 45 views each day and about 700 individual visitors in the last two weeks but that the chat portion of the site has had only about six visitors.

Moen also said he pays moderators a stipend to monitor the chat rooms. The moderators are clinical psychology students, addiction counseling students and other people with compassion or a desire to help, he said.

The $5,000 will go to items including web development, advertisements and paying moderators, he said.

The grant, Moen said, was the “saving grace” that allowed his project to happen.