Smoking takes center stage
A poll to help decide the fate of on-campus smoking will be taking place in the coming weeks, and the Student Government Association is working to get the word out to achieve maximum participation.
The polling, which will include students, faculty and administrators, was planned for the first week of school, but because of contractual issues between SGA and their online voting host, Votenet, the poll will happen at a later, unknown date.
“We’re in the process of renewing the contract, and once that contract is renewed then we’ll be able to move forward with the vote,” said Derrick Kenner, SGA’s general counsel, who has been at the forefront of their smoking agenda while working with BCOUGH, an ad hoc committee created by California Youth Advocacy Network.
“The goal for BCOUGH is to provide advocacy for students, administrators, staff and faculty, as well as the development [of] a policy that suites the campus as far as tobacco use is concerned,” Kenner said.
The poll, according to Kenner, will provide accurate information about what the complete body of Bakersfield College wants for a policy regarding on-campus tobacco use.
Students will choose from three different policies: a 100 percent tobacco free campus, designated smoking areas or leaving the policy as it stands now which allows tobacco use as long as it is 20 feet away from building entrances.
The three policies were chosen from an original survey conducted during the fall that included seven total policies.
This won’t be the first time BC students have been surveyed on the issue of on-campus tobacco use; it’s happened four times, in fact, between 2004-09, the latter of which led to a designated-area policy.
After the polling is finished, SGA will look to president Greg Chamberlain to put the policy in place.
Chamberlain said that the SGA and the participants of the poll will be able to count on him to enact whatever policy gets the most support.
“I will support the wishes of the students,” Chamberlain said. “I, personally, am in support of limiting smoking, because second-hand smoking is a real issue. A lot of people are walking around campus smoking and it can be very uncomfortable for people, especially for those with allergies.”
Enforcement of a policy has been a concern ever since tobacco use became an issue back in 2004, but now, Kenner says, there is a resolution.
AB 795, which passed back in August but didn’t go into effect until Jan. 1, grants California community colleges, CSUs and UCs the ability to enforce their own smoking policy with fines of up to $100 without a limit on the amount of citations.
The new law lays out a plan for the citing process, down to the last dollar.
The bill states that money from the fines will, “be allocated to include, but not limited to, the designated enforcement agency, education and promotion of the policy, and tobacco cessation treatment options.”
Kenner thinks that AB 795 will deter any lack of enforcement that has plagued previous attempts to get a policy set in place.
“That bill is the solution to enforcement at schools … [that] have problems and issues with students violating policy,” Kenner said. “Because right now, it’s just a violation of student code of conduct.”
BC’s student code of conduct currently lays out a four-step process that eventually can lead to suspension or expulsion.
Kenner said that “hitting their wallets” will prevent second offenders more so than the student code of conduct, which, in line 17 of the prohibited conduct clause, classifies “Smoking and/or the use of tobacco products inside all campus buildings and unauthorized campus areas” as an offense than can ultimately lead to suspension or expulsion.
The repeat offender must violate the code of conduct a minimum of five times before such actions are considered.
President Chamberlain agrees that AB 795 is vital to the enforcement and enactment of such a policy.
“I think [AB 795] is really important,” Chamberlain said. “Because if you don’t have the ability to enforce regulation, then it’s really difficult to make sure it really happens. If the decision and belief is to limit smoking then we need to limit smoking; we need to be able to enforce that.”
Kenner is taking it upon himself to get the word out on the poll by gathering members of SGA and BCOUGH to go to classrooms and tell students face-to-face and distributing bookmarkers that provide the URL to the polling site.
“Hopefully we’ll get a massive turnout so we can really see what the problem is and have a solution for that problem,” Kenner said. “I was a senator last year. In my constituency reports, [on-campus smoking] was pretty much one of the main complaints on campus among students.”