HOUGHTON - The results of Michigan Technological University's Senate referendum concerning a tobacco-free campus are in, and a majority of faculty and staff disagree with the university administration's current plans to move toward a tobacco-free campus.
In the referendum, 667 of 1,022 eligible voters responded, a 65 percent rate, choosing between one of the following three options:
1) Maintain the current Senate policy: no smoking in campus buildings.
2) Extend the current Senate policy to disallow all tobacco use in buildings and within a certain distance from buildings (e.g., 50 feet).
3) Further extend the policy by banning tobacco use on all Michigan Tech property: a tobacco-free campus.
The first option garnered 29 percent of the vote, while the second collected 31 percent and the third option pulled in 40 percent. The results were revealed at Wednesday's Senate meeting.
While the third option had the largest percentage of votes, collectively the Senate interpreted the results to mean 60 percent were opposed to a tobacco-free campus.
"This indicates that the proposed tobacco-free policy is not what the professional staff, at least the majority of the professional staff and faculty, feel is appropriate," Senate President William Bulleit said. "Unless you have other suggestions, I'm going to very shortly go to the administration and ask that they back off and that we try to find some sort of compromise working between them and the Senate on this issue, since there's a fairly significant majority who think that what's being proposed is not appropriate."
Senator Saeid Nooshabadi pointed out that if the results were going to be narrowed to two options that only two options should have been given in the first place, while other Senators pointed out that the 29 percent in favor of the first option would likely have chosen the less restrictive of the other two options.
"I'm going to show (the administration) this vote and explain that we have to make a change, and we'd like to work with you to figure out what that change would be," Bulleit said.
Senator Madhukar Vable emphasized to Bulleit that the way the Senate was bypassed in the tobacco-free decision was more important than the decision itself, and he wanted Bulleit to pass that sentiment on to administration.
"To me the central point still is the way it was brought about," Vable said.
Once the administration responds, the Senate then needs to decide what to do with its smoking policy, which has not been changed since 1994.
"All we can do is present this information to the administration, allow them to react, then it comes back to us, at which point then we worry about whether we do anything or not," Senator Timothy Scarlett said.