MAY 6, 2013


B. Questions to the President.

From Mr. Simeon P. Bochev (electrical and computer engineering and Student Government representative):
On April 9th, 2012 UT Austin became a tobacco-free campus. The use of any tobacco products is prohibited in university buildings and on university grounds within the state of Texas, including parking areas and structures, sidewalks, walkways, and university owned buildings...The Tobacco-free Campus policy is part of the university’s commitment to creating a healthy and sustainable environment for all members of our campus community" (http://www.utexas.edu/tobaccofree).

Unfortunately, many of our campus visitors, students, faculty and staff have chosen to ignore our new tobacco-free policy. Noncompliance has gone beyond simple forgetfulness to blatant disregard of the policy. In addition to flagrantly violating a known policy many smokers are polluting our campus by discarding their cigarette butts on the ground outside. UTPD has said they will not stop violators nor littering resulting from smokers; college administrators and building supervisors claim they cannot do anything; and concerned students like myself are ignored and sometimes ridiculed when we kindly inform smokers of our no-smoking policy. 

Mr. President. Will UT stand by while everything that I've described continues? Do you believe that "enforcement of the policy [is] achieved primarily through education, awareness and a spirit of cooperation," has failed? What concrete steps will be taken to see that smoking does not continue to degrade our campus environment?
President Powers yielded the floor to Vice President Pat Clubb (University operations) to answer the above question. Vice President Clubb reminded everyone of the two-stage process of creating a no-tobacco-use campus. Stage one allowed people to smoke only in designated areas, and stage two made the University campus completely tobacco-free a year later. She noted that, in her experience, most people wanted to abide by the policy and were just unaware of it. She announced that reinforcement, beyond reminding violators of the policy, was tricky, but that she thought improved signage would help, especially in the areas that had previously been temporary smoking areas during stage one. She added that it was hoped the culture of the campus could be gradually changed and heavy-handed enforcement could be avoided. However, she said it was not workable to have a policy that is ignored. Therefore, the UT police would begin issuing tickets, warnings first followed later by actual tickets involving monetary fines, especially in certain “problem areas.” She asked everyone to be patient as the signage is improved and the warning period is enacted, with the hope that improvement would occur by the beginning of the fall 2013 semester.

Next, Professor Ehud Ronn (finance) asked President Powers to comment on security measures on campus in light of recent events at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. President Powers responded that UT Austin has an excellent police chief and professional force that are committed to the concept of neighborhood policing. He stated that the UT police force, under Vice President Pat Clubb’s supervision, is very committed to campus safety and has a close relationship with the Austin Police Department (APD), making the UT campus and surrounding areas relatively safe places compared with similar campuses. The president further noted that UT has an excellent crisis management team, which is present at all major events, coordinating rapid response with APD, as well as the intelligence community in the state and in Washington, DC, with real-time communication during actual incidents or threats. He noted that UT is an open campus where visitors are welcome and where no policies have been adopted, such as those of some other institutions where IDs are often checked. He said he thought the openness was an attractive feature of UT Austin, but that did not mean that safety was not a priority. He explained, “We’re always looking at danger, and when there is a risk, we take precautions to try to avoid it.” He added, “I could give a lot more detail, but it’s not our practice to give detail about our security measures.”

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