Students will vote on smoke and vapor free campus policy

Student Senate passed a bill to hold an online referendum after debate


Photo by Kendall Ruchti

SENATE DEBATES: Student Senate discussed the pros and cons of holding a referendum to ask if UW-Eau Claire should become smoke and vapor free.

Student Senate voted in favor of holding an online referendum to ask students if UW-Eau Claire should become smoke and vapor free across campus.

If the referendum passes, Senate would consult with Chancellor James C. Schmidt, who has ultimate jurisdiction over the policy, about implementation. A smoke and vapor free campus would prohibit the use of cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes and other items producing smoke or vapor.

Senate updated the name of the referendum from last week to reflect a “smoke and vapor free” campus rather than “tobacco free.” Senate also removed survey results concerning students’ smoke and vapor use and struck the language about secondhand smoke effects to neutralize the bill.

“We’re not trying to educate them,” Director of Information Technology Systems, Jarrett Yuknis said. “Their vote should be based off what they already know or would like to go out and learn on their own. Not what we’d like to provide for them.”

Director of Finance Mary-Laura Samples said to prepare for the referendum individual campaigns could help inform students as well as get-out-the-vote efforts.

The root of Monday night’s debate focused on whether Senate or the student body should make the decision concerning the policy.

Senator Paul Soulier said as a supporter of direct democracy he’s in favor of the bill and its effort to involve students.

Senator Kristina Haideman didn’t support holding a referendum. As elected officials  Senators should make the decision, since they can make a more informed decision with access to more information, Haideman said.

Senator Connor Walbrun said he’s concerned the referendum would result in a response bias that wouldn’t accurately represent the student body.

“Email surveys tend to have that bias of just people who feel more strongly about the issue,” Walbrun said.

Senator Nicholas Bursaw was in favor of giving the choice to the students because Senators weren’t elected for their opinion on a smoke and vapor free policy.

“Our students are smart and they do know what they’re doing,” Bursaw said. “I have full confidence in our students making a very good, educated decision when choosing their answer on this referendum.”

Student body President Jake Wrasse said when Senator Ethan Fuhrman brought the policy idea to him he recommended it went to a student vote because the effect of a smoke and vapor free policy would strip students of a legal right.

“Policies about student life is pretty clearly within our purview,” Wrasse said. “Policies about an individual’s life and what they choose to do with their bodies is very different.”

The vote passed 17-10. The referendum can’t occur until at least 30 days after the bill’s passage.

In other Senate news

Student Senate approved the constitution for a swim club organization to exist on campus.

Senate then approved the constitution for an organization seeking to provide an environment for fans of the television show, The Office. Director of Campus Affairs Colton Ashley said The Office Philanthropic organization will also offer themed volunteer opportunities.