Written by | Jenna Gibson
Starting Aug. 1, students and employees no longer will be allowed to smoke on Amarillo College campuses. In response to a Student Government Association resolution in favor of banning smoking, the board of regents on Jan. 26 voted to prohibit all cigarettes, vapes and tobacco products at AC. Most students and staff members have reacted positively to the measure. “It means a cleaner campus overall,” said Charlie Meyer, a business major. “Whenever I go to school and people are smoking, it just feels dirty.” Joe Wyatt, communications coordinator in the college relations department and a long-time smoker, said he has no problem with eliminating smoking from campuses. “Many colleges such as ours are doing the same thing – we are not so much leading the way as trying to catch up,” Wyatt said. He noted that the inconsiderate behavior of many smokers may have prompted the ban. “A lot of people who smoke on our campuses make little attempt to follow the rules of etiquette regarding appropriate distances from entryways or main thoroughfares and, as evidenced in spite of easily accessible smoking receptacles located throughout AC properties, some of them are flat-out, littering slobs.” As a smoker, Wyatt said he is not concerned about the new policy. “Like any changes to the routines of daily living, we’ll all grow accustomed to what is what and live on.”
Bob Austin, vice president of student affairs, also said he thinks the significance of the ban is fairly modest. “All smokers are familiar with public smoking restrictions,” Austin said. “I really don’t anticipate any complaints or controversy. I think the burning question (pun intended) will be, ‘OK then, where am I allowed to smoke?’” AC officials have until August to determine smokers’ exact options. “We have some time to work on our communication,” Austin said. When the next school year begins, the formal policy will be included in the Student Code of Conduct and will be enforced by the student discipline officer, who is Austin. Smoking will still be permitted in the housing on the East Campus, Austin said. Smoking cessation classes are already offered through the college. “We are prepared to assist any student who needs some help to stop smoking,” he said. SGA members said they are glad to see the student-initiated policy become a reality.
“Everyone on SGA was really excited to be a part of something so important on our campus. It is definitely proof that students can change things on this campus,” said Shelby Silvertooth, an English major and SGA vice president. The concern about smoking on campus began when one student spoke up about not being able to breathe when walking to class because of the smokers. “Students have an issue with something that can possibly be changed, that is, they should make it known. It is easy to disregard some things, but you never know who is having the same problem as you,” Silvertooth said. Another member of SGA, Lily Gamble, the treasurer and a mass media major, said she was ecstatic when she heard the news that the smoke-free resolution had passed. “Students are just as capable of making change as literally anyone else. It’s all about how badly you want to change something and what you’re willing to do to see that it be changed,” Gamble said.
Andrew Alexander, a former AC student who was president of the SGA when the students’’ anti-smoking resolution was passed, described the process to gain the regents’ approval as “lengthy,” saying, “Despite various setbacks the Amarillo College SGA did a fantastic job and served the student body in the capacity that they were placed in office to do.” Alexander noted that before passing the resolution, the SGA sent out a survey to the entire student body and 80 percent of those surveyed were in favor of the ban. Nevertheless, the final policy does have some critics. Nick Rocha, a computer science major, said he hates that the policy groups smoking and vaping together. “I get out of class and then have 10 minutes until my next class, so I won’t have a lot of time to vape,” Rocha said. “I will probably be frustrated by the end of the day next semester.” Though there is another semester before the ban is put into place, quite a few questions still need to be answered. As the saying goes, “Smoke ’em if you got ’em,” because, starting next fall semester, the new policy will be enforced.