Evergreen Limits Smoking
Q&A With John Hurley
By Nix Chance
Last week I sat down with administrator John Hurley, who was behind the choice to remove the core of campus smoking areas, and asked him a few questions about the decision.
When did the decision to remove the ‘core’ smoking areas become official?
It became official this summer, I think September 1 through September 11. The reason for that is that when we adopt new policies or change policies that might affect working conditions or staff and faculty, we have to put that policy in front of the unions, their represented groups, to comment on it. So it took the process that long until all the comments were received, and then once those groups had made comments on it then we could move forward. So I think it was September 10 or 9 was the actual date that the policy was implemented.
When did this information become available to students?
The information had been telegraphed to students I think probably over the last year. The vice president made a recommendation, and that recommendation went out to Greener Commons and student groups. So that recommendation has been out there, particularly on Greener Commons for about a year. If you look on Greener Commons, you can see it’s a highly commented on site. There’s been a lot of people weighing in on that and talking about it. It’s been telegraphed to the campus community for a little over a year. We wanted to give people a lot of time knowing that this was going to change.
How were student voices prioritized in this decision?
We listened a lot to student voices. The Safety and Health Committee did a survey, and particularly one of the audiences of that survey were students. That survey is up on Greener Commons, and you can look that survey up and see the results of it. Also the same questions were asked of faculty and staff. So students had the survey, and then the Safety and Health Committee held a town hall meeting in which students were encouraged to go and make their comments.
Initially, the argument broke down into should the campus be completely no smoking, no smoking at all? Should there be some sort of in-between position? Just reduce smoking? Or should things just stay the same? I think those were the topics around which people were discussing the issue. Survey results were mixed, and the survey results from the students which were very mixed led us to believe that reducing smoking is good because smoking is a health hazard and secondhand smoke is not good for people, but to do away with smoking completely would cause a lot of hardships on people that have an addiction. We’re in a rural area, surrounded by a lot of forests, the vice president didn’t want people wandering to smoke in the woods, so we’re trying to mitigate it down to reducing secondhand smoke, while allowing smokers a place to go.
What kind of feedback have you received so far?
Generally the feedback has been very positive. I’m pleased because generally, the feedback has been positive from smokers as well. But I think setting the stage for making the core campus, the main center of campus, completely smoke free and paying attention to people’s health concerns, I think people appreciated that. So I thought it was very well received. There’s a number of comments of folks saying ‘I really can’t deal with secondhand smoke, I have asthma or whatever and even the slightest whiff of secondhand smoke causes me to not be able to do my work.’ So yeah, I think it was good. There were a couple of negative comments, you can see a couple of the negative comments on Greener Commons. One of them was ‘well I might as well quit now’ we would encourage that [laughs]. We would encourage people to stop smoking, but we do realize that some people do smoke.
What were your hopes—if any—for this kind of decision?
The outcome I would have wanted, and I think is being achieved is the core of the campus, the center of the campus is smoke free and I have to say, I must thank the campus community for making that possible. I think that both students, faculty, staff, everyone has worked hard to make the core of the campus smoke free and I think we’ve achieved that to the greater extent. There are still a few lingerers, people smoking around campus, but not as many as there were in the past. So I think the achievement was for a healthier campus, a smoke-free center core of the campus and I think we’ve achieved that.
What do you want students who disagree with the choice to remove the core smoking pits to know?
Well it’s a health concern for the campus as a whole. I think they should know that smoking is bad for folks, and secondhand smoke is bad for the campus community and ideally we would like to encourage people to quit smoking, but I also have to say I applaud the vice-president for recognizing that not everybody can just quit overnight, to quit smoking is very difficult. I think I would like them to know is that we’re attempting to accommodate smokers while maintaining a healthy core campus.
If you search the keyword ‘smoking’ into Greener Commons, the vice president’s recommendation from last december, and a notice from this past august warning that the smoking areas will be removed can be viewed.