December 14, 2007

Plans for making Ball State University largely smoke-free in 2008 received the enthusiastic backing of the university's board of trustees during its regularly scheduled Dec. 14 meeting on campus.  The trustees voted their unanimous endorsement of a resolution calling for a general smoking ban on campus starting with the resumption of classes on March 17, immediately following spring break.

A University Senate proposal making the first comprehensive changes to Ball State's Core Curriculum in two decades also received the board's assent.  The new Core Curriculum is designed to develop students' critical thinking skills needed to succeed in the 21st century.  The plan calls for greater depth and rigor in written and oral communication, natural and social sciences, and fine arts.  Traditional classroom information will be connected to problem-solving experiences that transform information into judgment. 

Consistent with the university's strategic plan, the new curriculum calls for a capstone experience that demonstrates a student's ability to actually transform information into knowledge, knowledge into judgment, and judgment into action.  As a result, graduates will be better equipped to thrive in a changing world because they will be prepared to find real solutions to real problems and translate new information into action. 
A new Web-based distance education program leading to a doctor of nursing practice degree also was approved.

With the university's housing and dining expenditures expected to increase by approximately 3.7 percent next year, the board approved, as well, changes in undergraduate student room and board contracts for the 2008-09 academic year. The net financial impact on in-residence students will vary according to their respective room and board plans, although the standard, double room rate will increase from $7,240 to $7,598.

In other financial business, board members accepted the university's financial report for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2007.

Health concerns

Based on a report prepared by a task force of students, faculty and staff that President Jo Ann M. Gora appointed last October to review the issue of smoking on campus, the nonsmoking resolution expresses the board members' overall support of a no-smoking policy but leaves to Gora and her team of administrators the specifics of how to implement and enforce the changes.

"The concept of wellness is a main component of our strategic plan for the future of Ball State," noted Gora in anticipation of the board's action. "If we're serious about wanting to promote better health among our students, faculty and staff, it is essential that we move the university toward becoming a smoke-free environment."

The evidence of smoking's harmful effects is plentiful, added Gora.  The Institute of Medicine reports that tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke claim more than a half-million lives in the U.S. each year, making them - in the additional view of the Centers for Disease Control - the nation's single-most preventable cause of premature death.

"The best science also indicates clearly that tobacco use is a major contributor to the development of heart disease and other chronic illnesses and that secondhand smoke poses grave risks to healthy nonsmokers, particularly in the workplace," Gora said. "We have already made significant investments in programs and personnel to encourage the campus community to healthier lifestyles - something we expect to continue and expand upon with our proposed new fitness center. But so much of this worthy effort will be compromised if we do not address directly and forcefully the dangers of smoking."

An important part of the university's plan for a smoke-free campus is to offer increased assistance to those who may want to stop smoking, including peer-facilitated Freshstart classes organized through Health Education that begin in January and two additional Working Well smoking cessation classes for employees during lunch breaks starting in February. Also in January the university will make available telephonic and in-person coaching intervention for employees.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow

Smoking has been prohibited in most campus buildings and university vehicles since 1987.  Public spaces in the university's residence halls were made off limits to smoking in 1992, although smoking still was allowed in individual student rooms until 2002, when leadership staff in Housing and Residence Life decided to extend the ban to those areas as well.

The most recent revision to Ball State's smoking policy was made in December 2004, when the University Senate approved an amendment to prohibit smoking "within 30 feet of any university building entrance, air intake, or operable window."

Beginning on St. Patrick's Day 2008, however, smoking will be prohibited in all university buildings and outdoor campus areas except for officially designated and posted smoking areas. The smoke-free implementation task force has recommended 11 informal gathering places or "hot spots" where smokers among the university's more than 17,000 students and 3,000-plus employees may continue to light up.  All are situated near popular locations where workers and students congregate, yet still removed from the main parts of campus:

  • Pittenger Student Center (south side)
  • Elliott Hall (southwest rear corner)
  • Emens garage (west side)
  • Worthen Arena (north side)
  • Studebaker Complex (between east and west halls)
  • Art and Journalism Building (south side)
  • LaFollette Complex (west side)
  • Johnson Hall (west side)
  • Robert Bell Building (southwest corner)
  • Ball Gym (southwest area)
  • Scheumann Stadium lots.

The revised smoking policy includes only two other exemptions to the expanded ban

  • venues where artistic productions are held and the director of the production calls for smoking by specific characters
  • designated, individual University Apartments as determined by the Office of Housing and Residence Life.

As proposed by the implementation task force, violators of the new policy would be subject to a $50 fine per occurrence. In addition, under Indiana law, a person who smokes in a university building commits a Class B infraction, which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.

Monies collected from fines will be used to help fund smoking cessation initiatives, as well as health education and relevant wellness-related programs.