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DSG approves resolution in support of reducing smoking on campus

The night after Duke’s Graduate and Professional Student Council approved a resolution to encourage the University to reduce smoking on campus, Duke Student Government followed suit, prodding the administration to act on the issue.

Junior Kushal Kadakia, DSG’s executive vice president, presented the resolution, which was amended before being approved with only two people dissenting in a roll-call vote. Kadakia said he was “very excited” about the passage and noted the rarity of gaining support from both student governance bodies on major topics related to campus life.

“The fact that we have a DSG resolution back-to-back with a GPSC resolution really shows a convergence of student governments,” he said. “[It’s] one of the first times we’ve seen that for a really big initiative like this.” 

Like the resolution passed by GPSC, Wednesday’s legislation does not advocate for any specific policy options. Rather, it encourages the administration to try to reduce smoking on campus and increase availability of clinical resources. Kadakia noted that he has seen legislation on this topic in DSG for the last two years, but both times it was previously stifled by outside influences like limited resources and personnel changes.

Kadakia said that though data shows that most students at Duke who regularly smoke would like to quit, the resources are not prevalent enough to facilitate that—meaning there’s a policy gap that could help fix the situation. He also noted the data shows undergraduate support for labeling Duke a smoke-free campus—but not tobacco-free—though 11.4 percent of Duke undergraduates reported that they smoke.

The executive vice president said that more than 2,000 college campuses in the U.S. are already smoke-free, including more than 62 in North Carolina. He thinks now is the time for Duke to make that leap.

“What we see now is not just a grassroots effort, but bottom-up and top-down meeting in the middle for a common interest,” he said. “That’s what we’re really seeing right now, and I’m so excited about this.” 

First-year Itamar Barak used the public comments section of the meeting to voice his opposition to the resolution. As someone who quit smoking four days ago and is currently dealing with the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, he raised concerns about the idea of the University forcing students to not smoke.

He noted problems of combining the symptoms of withdrawal with the stress of exams, and said that making students go off-campus is impractical because of the time it would take. Barak also noted that smoking is most prevalent among minority communities and international students from cultures where smoking is more common. He asked DSG to consider smoke-free zones instead of supporting an out-right ban. 

The original resolution that Kadakia presented stated DSG’s support for administrators labelling Duke a smoke-free campus and “urged” them to make the necessary investments to provide adequate clinical services to meet the needs of people affected by the policy. 

After a negative speech against the original resolution by first-year Andrew Carlins, senator for academic affairs, and sophomore Avery Boltwood, senator for campus life, proposed a friendly amendment to put an increased focus on the aspect related to providing adequate resources.

The amended resolution that was passed by the Senate calls on Duke “to enact such a policy that is both comprehensive in scope to ensure the necessary investment in clinical services to actively meet the needs of the citizens of the Duke community so that we can move towards designating Duke University as a smoke-free campus.”

One of the two senators who voted against the resolution in a roll-call vote—sophomore Daisy Almonte, senator for equity and outreach—wrote in an email that despite the amendment, she did not feel that the other content of the resolution reflected the prioritization of increasing resources. 

She noted that she is concerned that the policy will not provide treatment resources to staff who will also be affected by restrictions on smoking.

"It seemed to be implied that those resources on campus would be in place to support students, and the policy that is referenced in the resolution would affect everyone," she wrote. 

The other senator that voted against the resolution was sophomore Joel Mire, senator for academic affairs.

In other business

The Senate followed the recommendation of the Financial Oversight and Appeals Committee to forgive the $3,599.56 of over-draft debt that We Are Here Duke amassed last year. The student group, which seeks to combat sexual and intimate partner violence on college campuses, accrued the debt after a book-keeping error caused the group to request $1,500 for an event that cost them $4,500. 

Since the over-draft for the April 20, 2017 event, the group’s ability to request funds for events or through the annual budget had been cut off. With the debt now forgiven, that ability has been reinstated. 

The Senate also approved an $800 allocation from its surplus budget to fund the Executive Branch’s discretionary account. Senate Pro Tempore Jackson Dellinger, a junior, said that the discretionary fund was allocated $800 from the President’s discretionary fund, which has $2,000 annually, during the annual budget process for this year. However, the transaction was never done, and the Executive Branch’s discretionary fund never received the money. Wednesday’s allocation from the Senate’s surplus fund remedies that.

A new pilot program for menstrual supplies will be launched in Perkins Library on Nov. 12, said Attorney General Sabriyya Pate, a junior. The senate allocated the program $441.33 for the pads, tampons and dispensers—which will be located in the female and male bathrooms. Student volunteers from the campus group Progress Period will restock the dispensers each week.

The Senate also approved the chartering of two new student groups—Duke Ballroom Dance Club and Team One Love at Duke, a group focused on gender violence that has a national organization that was established by a Duke alum. 

Correction: This article was updated to reflect that Almonte is a senator for equity and outreach, not academic affairs. The Chronicle regrets the error.


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