Both Student Senate and Faculty Senate have weighed in on the smoking issue, sending recommendations up to the administration for further action.
The Student Senate passed an important piece of legislation on March 30 with a unanimous vote of student representatives.
“WHEREAS, second hand smoking has been scientifically proven to lead to many diseases…. THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that this Student Senate, representing the student body of Tyler Junior College, that the use of Tobacco products on TJC campus will be prohibited, and, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED… that certain designated areas can be created where this rule is not in effect…”
Resolution 10-01 is TJC Student Senate’s proposal, which states that smoking will be prohibited on TJC campus except for designated areas. Student Senate proposed several locations such as in between Claridge and Sledge Hall, at the back of Potter Hall and near the Intramural Field.
“The ones we came up with are merely suggestions,” said Student Senate President Austin Witherspoon. “We, ourselves, do not have the power to create designated areas.”
After Witherspoon and the Executive Board finished drafting the resolution, Student Senate adjusted and edited the document as a team. Student Senate was satisfied with the outcome of the vote and the general consensus of the student body.
“I also was a bit shocked that there was no opposition,” said Witherspoon.
After two Student Senate meetings, one open discussion, hours of research and physically drafting the legislation, Student Senate has played its final role for the majority of students at TJC.
“…We are certainly open to discuss the issue with anyone that has any concerns regarding it, however, as far as doing any further work on the issue, we have done all that we can,” said Witherspoon. Prior to the Student Senate meeting, Faculty Senate President James Richey sent out a voluntary e-mail survey to all TJC faculty members in which they had a three-option choice to briefly give their opinion. The options were for TJC to become a completely smoke-free campus, to create designated smoking areas or to leave the current ordinance as is. The survey remained anonymous to protect the identities of faculty members. Individual votes were still coming in and as of 12:10 p.m. on March 31, the majority of faculty votes opted for a smoke-free campus.
“As Faculty Senate president, I felt it was important to be pro-active and give the faculty as a whole an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns,” said Richey. “This way we would be able to have some faculty data by the time the smoking question was posed to the faculty.”
Faculty Senate held their own vote during their final meeting of the semester on April 6. Faculty Senate is also a recommending body. TJC faculty members elect senate members to represent them. Although Richey plays a major role as president in Faculty Senate, he chose to remain neutral and abstain from voting on the smoking issue.
“Let the data speak for itself. Take emotion out of it. Let’s just try to do what’s right for TJC. It’s not an easy decision; it’s a tough decision. I’m glad it’s not my decision to make,” said Richey.
Unlike Student Senate, Faculty Senate chose not to draft a formal resolution.
“I think the Student Senate and the Faculty Senate should present the data that have been collected in an impartial and neutral manner to the administration. This will give the administrators something to go forward with, one way or the other,” said Richey. “We’re not about suppressing data. We’re about informing the administrators of exactly how the faculty feels about this issue: good, bad or indifferent.”
This isn’t the first time smoking has been debated on TJC campus. This heated issue is just one of many topics Faculty Senate has been faced with in recent years. Richey believes that the matter of smoking will probably be revisited at some point.”When people are forced to walk through secondhand smoke to get into and out of buildings on campus, those people have a right to complain. Just like the smokers have a right to complain that their rights to smoke are being violated,” said Richey. “I can see both sides: Those who smoke have seen their freedoms dwindle away in our society. But on the other side, it’s really hard to protect the rights of someone who is doing something that is potentially causing bodily harm to someone else.”
During the Faculty Senate meeting, the smoking ban was discussed as a group. The members then voted by secret ballot. Nineteen senators voted for a smoke-free campus, two senators voted for designated smoking areas, zero senators voted to leave the current ordinance as is and one senator did not vote.
The recommendations of both Student Senate and Faculty Senate will now be presented to TJC administrators, President Mike Metke and the Board of Trustees for further action.