Student Government Association officials are pushing to get a tobacco free policy and an Esry Health Center fee on this March’s SGA and Senate election ballots.
Focus groups will be formed to provide feedback on the proposed changes before both policies are drafted and placed on the ballot.
“It’s our goal to get student opinion on both of these issues,” SGA Director of Communication Alison Norris said.
Student Governor Peter Gregory has been working with SGA, Senate and Administration to research both issues since earlier in the fall semester. A resolution stating that SGA supported the pursuit of an initiative to make Western tobacco free passed in the Senate Nov 1.
While the resolution passed unanimously, it was not without debate. Some senators felt that SGA should not have stated their stance on the issue without receiving student feedback.
“I felt that we should have had the students develop the policy,” SGA Director of Finance Colin Hoffman said. “It sends the wrong message. It seems like we’ve already decided what we want to do before we put it to a vote of the students.”
Gregory said the student focus groups will help SGA form a policy that meets the opinions of students.
“The purpose of the focus groups is to make sure that the policy reflects the opinions of the students,” Gregory said. “It’s the students developing the policy.”
His plan was to draft a preliminary proposal that he would present to the focus groups for their opinions.
“We expect to see some disagreement between the students, but it’s really about trying to find a happy medium and what’s best for the university and the students in the long run,” Gregory said.
The necessary steps between the beginning of the semester and March could prevent the measures from making it to the ballot, but Gregory said he was almost certain that at least the tobacco free policy would make it.
Gregory acknowledged that one of the biggest obstacles in drafting the proposal was settling on how the policy would be enforced if passed. Gregory also said that enforcement was the primary reason SGA wanted to go for a completely tobacco free policy rather than just smoke free or designated smoking areas.
“It is easier to comply if it is black and white,” Gregory said.
While talks with administration and health center officials were only preliminary, Gregory said the health center fee would likely be $25 for full-time students per semester. The cost was based on the co-pay that students are currently charged per visit to the health center.
“If a student were to use the health center once a semester, they would already get their money back,” Gregory said.
When the fee was initially proposed to the Senate, Gregory said that health center officials felt that they were not able to provide enough services to students with their current budget. The fee, which is charged by some other local universities, would allow for the center to be open more and possibly have additional staff.
“There are still a lot of details to work out,” Gregory said. “A large part of it has to do with changing the system of how they do things now, that’s our biggest obstacle now.”