By: Lynette Martinez
The Associated Students of Whatcom Community College (ASWCC) recently approved a position statement that recommends creating a smoke-free zone on Whatcom’s campus.
Whatcom’s Vice President for Administrative Services Nate Langstraat said, “Because this was a student proposed recommendation all voices need to be heard.Faculty and staff members smoke as well so their voices need to be heard as well.”
“At the time, college leadership is requesting feedback before continuing our work with the ASWCC to finalize a plan that can be implemented during summer 2014,” said Whatcom’s President Kathi Hiyane-Brown in a memo released May 8 related to these recommendations.
Whatcom’s campus, however, does not currently have designated areas that are smoke-free zones, said ASWCC Student Senate President Lucas Nydam. The position statement recommends the courtyard area between Syre Student Center, Laidlaw, Heiner, and Baker Hall become a smoke-free zone.
Nydam said that he thinks the administration is “in-favor” and “supportive” of creating a smoke-free zone on campus. “Whatcom’s campus is one of the few community college campuses around Whatcom County that still allows smoking on campus,” he said.
This decision was arrived at after the ASWCC surveyed 300 students and discovered that 65 percent of those students were in favor of designating the Syre courtyard as a smoke-free zone, said Nydam. He also said that the survey discovered 70 percent of students surveyed were either “bothered” or “very bothered” by smoke on campus.
The survey asked students,”Do you believe that the Syre Courtyard and area surrounding the Heiner Fountain should be smoke-free?” The survey also asked, “Of the choices below which best describes how you feel about secondhand smoke on campus?” with the possible answer of, “not bothered,” “bothered,” or “very bothered.”
“Creating a sense of community on campus is hard to do at a community college, but by offering students a smoke-free area in the courtyard, they might be more inclined to use the courtyard,” Nydam said.
Whatcom student Sonja Haehnel, 22, said, “I am all for making the courtyard smoke-free, I personally don’t have an issue with the smell of smoke but my sister who has asthma said that when she is hanging out in the courtyard the smoke triggers her asthma.”
Determining where a new smoking shelter can and cannot be placed is an issue, Nydam added, because new buildings and the area around them have to be smoke-free zones in order to comply with the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification requirements.
The Bellingham Herald reported that these new buildings will be the Learning Commons, which construction is set to begin on in late summer 2015, and the 22,725 square-foot expansion to Pavilion which is set to begin summer 2014.
In order to accommodate students, the Student Senate has proposed the construction of a new smoking shelter on the south west side of Syre, Nydam said. He added that Syre is an older building so does not have to maintain LEED requirements.
Langstraat said that meeting LEED requirements is common practice for construction of new buildings on campus, adding that meeting these requirements is what has forced the conversation about creating a smoke-free area on campus to move forward. Whatcom’s Auxilary Services building was the first to gain LEED certification and since then the conversation about smoking on campus has progressed.
“There has been talk about relocating the smoking shelter outside Heiner, to co-exist with the newly proposed shelter outside Syre. This would double the smoking shelter size,” said Langstraat. “There will not be ticketing for smoking in the courtyard but if someone is caught smoking in the courtyard they will be asked by a faculty or staff member or even by another student to go over to the designated smoking area instead.”
May 22 the College Council, which is made up of administrators, faculty, staff, and students, metto discuss if the Syre courtyard will be smoke-free, said Langstraat. He said he believes that the administration is in general support of the recommendation and if the decision to move forward is made then signage will be placed in in the courtyard over summer 2014.The signs will state that the courtyard area is smoke-free and that smoking is only allowed in smoking shelters.
Whatcom student Jack Johnson, 19, said, “I smoke and I am not bothered by having to walk to a designated smoking shelter so I would not mind if the courtyard area in front of Syre became a smoke-free zone.”
However, Whatcom student Marlo F., 18, said, “I don’t think that making the courtyard smoke-free will work. My friends smoke all the time in the courtyard and choose not to use the smoking shelter outside Heiner because it is just too isolated.”
Whatcom student Maya Cunningham, 23, said, “I am for making the courtyard smoke-free. If the smoking shelter is just around the corner it would not be too much of an interruption to walk over to it.”
Currently Syre, Laidlaw, Heiner, and Baker Hall, the four buildings that surround the courtyard, abide by the Washington Clean Air Act which states, “Smoking is prohibited within 25 feet of all building entrances,” as reads the sign posted on every entrance in all four buildings.