After many weeks of debate, the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) has withdrawn the proposed tobacco ban resolution, which stated that tobacco sales should be banned on University-owned property, specifically at Neon Deli. The resolution was drafted by WSA Chair of the Student Affairs Committee Nicole Updegrove ’14. A campus-wide poll gauging student reactions to the resolution was sent out via email on Sunday, March 24.
“It seemed most fair to put it to the campus because the whole student body should have to decide if we should make a sacrifice…[as] it will disproportionately affect one group,” Updegrove said.
Matthew Motta ’13 developed the poll after Updegrove created the questions. He described the results as being closer than one might expect, but 64 percent of students ultimately favored dropping the resolution.
“Amongst people who have said that they don’t use tobacco products, that margin is considerably smaller: 57 percent disapproval to 43 percent approval,” Motta said. “And amongst people who do use tobacco products the margin is enormous: 81 to 18.”
Due to the results of the survey, Updegrove withdrew the proposal.
“Only if we had more than 50 percent support of smokers and nonsmokers would we even move forward to continue discussing the resolution,” she said.
President Roth found it interesting that students would consider banning tobacco sales on campus. However, he explained that he was not convinced that such a change would have an impact on the number of students who smoke.
“Obviously it would be a very different thing to say…that we should ban smoking on campus,” Roth said. “It’s easy to feel good about taking cigarettes away from the Neon Deli, but…if students were serious about getting rid of smoking…that would be a different thing.”
Updegrove was satisfied with the results of the poll and was content that the campus came to a general agreement.
“I’m really happy that the campus discussed it,” Updegrove said. “I’m glad that we talked about what our priorities are and that students got the chance to express their own views.”
President Roth agreed that it is not the University’s decision to dictate whether students smoke. Although he personally does not condone smoking, he does want students to be able to make autonomous decisions.
“I’m not suggesting we should [ban smoking on campus],” Roth said. “I don’t think people should smoke, but I don’t think the University [is in a position to] legislate that….My job is not to keep students from doing things that are legal, even if they’re unhealthy.”
Motta believes that a survey proved to be an efficient manner of presenting the question to students. Because student opinion varied on the issue, he noted that it was appropriate that everyone was able to voice their opinions.
“I do think [surveys] are a good idea periodically to assess what Wesleyan students think via what we might call a referendum,” Motta said. “I think that…by saying this isn’t just going to happen at an elite, legislative level, we’re going to let students vote on it, and not just opinions with sentences on blogs anonymously or the Anonymous Confession Board (ACB) [but] to actually say here it is: yes, no, up, down, I support it, I reject it.”
Motta also pointed to the usefulness of the survey as a means for students who do not feel comfortable voicing their position on the issue in a public setting to be heard.
“At the same time I think there are pretty valid arguments on both sides, and I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of looking at the ACB and being like, ‘Wow,’ [and] overwhelmed by opposition,” Motta said. “Even in dialogues with friends, [many students are] hearing all this overwhelming opposition and not really thinking that maybe there’s this silent group of people that’s a relatively large chunk of campus that is okay with it.”
Several University students reacted quite negatively to the resolution. Although Updegrove explained she was merely trying to fulfill the University’s values, many sharply criticized her proposal.
“I mean, I’m not interested in asserting my views over the entire campus, so I can’t say whether I’m happy or unhappy [about the conclusion of the survey],” Updegrove said. “The campus doesn’t want this, so we won’t do it.”