MSA voices concerns over smoking ban

While a University of Minnesota opinion survey showed that a majority of students would support a campus-wide smoking ban, the Minnesota Student Association, the âÄústudent voiceâÄù at the University, isnâÄôt quite as supportive. Although MSA doesnâÄôt currently have an official stance on the smoking ban, executive members expressed concerns on the surveyâÄôs accuracy, how a ban would be enforced and safety implications if the ban were put in place. Survey problems Alicia Smith, the legislative affairs chair, said she felt the survey didnâÄôt accurately represent the student body. She said more than 5,000 surveys should have been sent out, and that the 1,645 respondents had extreme opinions on the issue, so others werenâÄôt represented. At-large representative Ryan Kennedy said the format wasnâÄôt adequate. âÄúI donâÄôt think any voluntary response survey will give an accurate depiction,âÄù he said. Enforcement issues Smoking bans have already been implemented on the Morris and Duluth campuses, and Alicia Smith said representatives from those campuses said the bans havenâÄôt been enforced. âÄúYou see people smoking right in front of the âÄòNo SmokingâÄô signs,âÄù she said. âÄúThey took away ashtrays and people are now just littering.âÄù MSA President Mark Nagel said enforcement would be an issue, noting that the current smoking policy isnâÄôt enforced. In the last MSA forum, Amelious Whyte , the associate to the Office of Student Affairs, presented the surveyâÄôs results and said the University cannot and will not do anything to enforce the ban, Kennedy said. âÄúWhatâÄôs the point of making a policy that we canâÄôt actually enforce and we donâÄôt plan on enforcing?âÄù Kennedy said. Designated Areas Several executive MSA members said they would support designated smoking areas as opposed to a campus-wide ban. Diversity Education Fund Grants Chair Shana Conklin said she would support designated areas because students may otherwise have to go to unsafe areas to smoke. âÄúItâÄôs better to set up designated smoking areas so we donâÄôt infringe upon the rights of students who donâÄôt want to be inhaling smoke and (the areas are) also preserving safety,âÄù Conklin said. Campus Relations Chair Missy Gette l said designated areas near dorms would be beneficial because students may be inclined to smoke in their dorm rooms rather than walking off campus. MSAâÄôs plan A resolution against the ban will be voted on during the first forum next semester, its author, Dylan Kelly said. Last year, MSA had a similar resolution that inspired much debate, and it was amended to only support smoking cessation programs, Nagel said. Conklin said sheâÄôs not sure if MSA will be able to pass a cohesive position statement this year either. âÄúI think that a lot of people will remain split on the issue, but hopefully we can come to some sort of compromise with it,âÄù she said.