GV launches Respect Our Campus campaign

GVL/Nickolas Peters

GVL/Nickolas Peters

Carly Simpson

Grand Valley State University is working to create awareness about the university’s smoking policy through the “Respect Our Campus” campaign.

Going until Nov. 24, the campaign includes a Respect Our Campus competition. GVSU students, faculty and staff can guess the number of littered cigarette butts that were picked up off the ground near Kleiner, between Manitou and Mackinac halls and by the Mackinac bus stop during September and October.

The improperly disposed cigarettes are on display at the 20/20 desk in the Kirkhof Center. Participants can write down their guess at the desk or tweet it at #respectourcampus.

“It’s more of a recognition of, ‘okay you can still smoke on campus, you have a right to do that, but to try and be mindful of where the cigarette butts are going and to recognize that they’re not biodegradable,’” said Lindsey DesArmo, the health and wellness specialist. “Another main goal of the campaign is to make sure people do have access to resources if they do want to quit (smoking).”

According to GVSU’s smoking policy, all university owned buildings are designated as smoke free, and smoking is prohibited in all indoor spaces and within 25 feet of all buildings, bus stops and the Little Mac bridge. The 25-feet rule was established in 2008, DesArmo said.

GVSU is in the minority though when it comes to smoking on campus. Over half of Michigan’s public universities have a smoke free or tobacco free policy.

Central Michigan University, Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan University and Western Michigan University are tobacco free campuses. Oakland University, Saginaw Valley State University and the University of Michigan, UM-Flint and UM-Dearborn are smoke free.

In winter 2014, GVSU’s Student Senate surveyed over 2,600 students, faculty and staff about the current smoking policy. The survey found that almost 20 percent of the GVSU community wants the university to have a tobacco free campus.

In addition, about 19 percent want a smoke-free campus, and 29 percent want a designated smoke-free campus where smoking would only be allowed in certain areas such as parking lots. About 32 percent want to keep the current policy.

“We have identified smoking as an activity that is detrimental to not only the health of the individual smoker, but also to those around them inhaling the toxins, and also to our campus which is left to suffer the negative environmental consequences of improperly discarded cigarette butts,” said Eric Cousins, Student Senate’s vice president for campus affairs. “With these facts in mind, we felt it was necessary to launch a campaign to educate our GVSU community about the far-reaching effects of smoking, and hopefully help members of our community choose healthier lifestyles.

“While Student Senate does not have an official resolution regarding our opinion on smoking policies, we absolutely advocate for the overall health of Grand Valley.”

The Respect Our Campus campaign is sponsored by the health and wellness task force, which includes campus recreation, facilities, Student Senate, the office of sustainability practices and human resources health and wellness.