Smoking policies under review


Christopher Rodriguez

Designated areas like this are now on all three campuses.

New rules apply when picking up a cigarette at San Jacinto College since the Board of Trustees suspended the existing smoking policies of all three campuses in August, and instituted a single temporary policy.

According to San Jac’s website, the College will work on the new policy with the Environmental Health and Safety Smoking and Tobacco Use Taskforce; a group made up of faculty and members of the Student Government Association. They will conduct focus groups and surveys to help the college make a decision on their permanent district-wide smoking policy.

Previously, North and Central campuses allowed restricted smoking while South campus prohibited smoking on the entire campus.

Amanda Booren, Director of Communications and Publications, said San Jac has three campuses but is one college in need of a unified policy. That was the catalyst for initiating the change.

“San Jacinto College, for many years, operated as three separate colleges,” she said, “That has since changed, and we are now one college with three campuses, and our policies need to reflect that. A single policy that is for all three campuses creates efficiencies and makes it consistent across the board.”

Booren said both San Jac students and faculty contacted Chancellor Brenda Hellyer about the College’s different policies, particularly the variation on South campus.

“She (Hellyer) received comments previously from both students and staff, mainly dealing with the inconsistencies between South and the other two campuses. So this is what prompted her to form this task force, and why the Board made the change to smoke-free across all campuses until a recommendation comes forth. Dr. Hellyer takes concerns that are brought forward to her seriously, and this issue is no different,” Booren said.

While drafting the new policy, Booren said the College is taking proper steps to ensure the new policy will sit well with the San Jac community.

“We realize there are various opinions on both sides of this issue,” Booren said. “We want to make sure we are covering all of our bases with regards to research and best practices, and that we do what is best for our College, students, and employees.”

“The task force that has been formed is diverse. It includes students, faculty, staff, and administrators from all three campuses and the administration office, some of whom are smokers and some of whom are not,” she added.

Although some college environments are completely prohibiting smoking, Booren said San Jac is not necessarily planning to follow in other institutions’ footsteps.

“Our intention is to make the policy consistent across all three campuses. At this time, we don’t know if that will be smoking or smoke-free campuses. We have assembled a task force to look at all of the issues and bring forth a recommendation,” Booren said.

Booren said, until the Task Force gathers the data, San Jac will remain a smoke-free institution with designated smoking areas.

“We conducted research to see what other institutions did with regards to designated smoking areas, and found that was quite common. We updated our campus maps to indicate where the smoking areas are located on each campus, and at the administration offices, and smoking receptacles are at each designated location,” Booren said.

Victor Aguilar, a student on both Central and South campuses said the college should not completely prohibit smoking.

“I don’t think they should ban smoking on campus,” Aguilar said. “If the people want to smoke, that’s up to them. They should let them do their thing.”