UW-L works on compromise for tobacco-free plan

Published On: May 10 2013 05:55:11 PM CDT   Updated On: May 10 2013 06:54:02 PM CDT
LA CROSSE, Wis. -

The effort to make University of Wisconsin-La Crosse a tobacco-free campus is moving forward, but not without some compromises.

It was introduced to the UW-L governing bodies at the beginning of the year, and the feedback is not all positive.

The representative groups on campus are not opposed to a tobacco-free policy, but it's the details of how to make that happen that group members say need more work.

UW-L student Caitlyn Bednarek is part of the team hoping to start a tobacco-free policy at UW-L.

"It would be everything that was on the campus property, so that would be the sidewalks that are the perimeter of campus, as well," said Bednarek.

But despite her desire to see the policy move forward as- is, she said it's important to listen to people's concerns.

"I'm very passionate about all things health and wellness," said Bednarek. "We were hearing a lot of people say that they were concerned that this was a huge step forward, more of a leap."

Those concerns were voiced by a number of governing groups on campus, including the Classified Staff Council.

"A lot of the classified staff are paid hourly, and a lot of the custodians are not even allowed to leave campus, so if they can't leave campus they're going to have a work rule violation. The other concern was: How are we going to deal with the neighborhoods? I don't think the people would appreciate a lot of people smoking in front of their homes and dropping the cigarettes," said advisory chair of the Classified Staff Council Kerry Auby.

"The other thing that's being worked out is: How do you enforce the policy? Who's going to do that?" said Chancellor Joe Gow.

So a revised plan is in the works -- one Gow and Bednarek hope will be the perfect compromise.

"Smoking has to happen on our sidewalks. On the perimeter of the campus. So not in the center of the campus but out on State Street, on La Crosse Street, those kinds of places," said Gow.

"We decided that we could meet them halfway. A step forward is still a step in the right direction," said Bednarek.

Gow said once the final changes are made on the policy, he will review it with his leadership team.

If the team has any concerns, it and Gow will send it back to all the governing bodies on campus for more feedback.

Western Technical College is already smoke free and Viterbo University plans to go smoke-free, by 2014.