MSU steps up tobacco-free campus enforcement

With MSU’s ban on campus tobacco use more than two months old, the university has begun to step up enforcement efforts by referring “repeat offenders” to the Dean of Students Office for disciplinary action.

The policy, which encompasses both cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products, is intended to reduce tobacco use among students and MSU employees by making it more inconvenient.

When first implemented, the ban’s proponents said they hoped to enforce the measure through education and informal peer-to-peer reminders, but that the university would add it to the student conduct code so as to allow for more formal action if necessary.

“This fall has been an experiment,” said Dean of Students Matt Caires, who is responsible for enforcing the conduct code. While he feels like most students have complied with the policy, he said that enforcing it with warnings alone has given some students the impression they can disregard the rule without consequences.

Tammie Brown, MSU’s chief housing officer, said that, at times, students smoking near residence halls ignored requests to move. As a result, after posting additional signage and emphasizing the policy at floor meetings, ResLife began scanning cat cards of students found violating the policy and referring them to the Dean of Students office.

“It was pretty blatant,” Brown said. “We felt like it was negatively impacting our on-campus community.” She estimated that between 15 and 20 students had been cited as of last Friday.

Caires said that tobacco violations are handled similarly to alcohol and marijuana violations. He stressed that the process is intended to be “educational” rather than punitive, with conduct officers able to tailor punishments based on the specifics of the situation and the student’s level of cooperation.

Regardless of the outcome, a letter describing the case and consequences is placed in the student’s conduct file. Potential punishments for violating the conduct code range from warnings to community service to, at most extreme, expulsion. “I’d like to think we’ll never get there with tobacco violations,” Caires said, “but in this world you just never know.”