Just before Thanksgiving, ASI senators passed a bill that urges Fresno State President John Welty to create a tobacco-free campus. The resolution came with a bit of controversy, though, as ASI president Selena Farnesi did not sign or endorse the bill.

ASI presents tobacco ban resolution to Welty

Public health student and Project Impact 4 Life member
Aurelio Mendoza dresses as a cigarette to promote a
campus-wide initiative to ban tobacco.
Esteban Cortez / The Collegian

Just before Thanksgiving, ASI senators passed a bill that urges Fresno State President John Welty to create a tobacco-free campus. The resolution came with a bit of controversy, though, as ASI president Selena Farnesi did not sign or endorse the bill.

ASI senators passed the resolution after a presentation by Dr. Gregory Thatcher from the Department of Public Heath encouraging the senators the tobacco ban the resolution.

Farnesi said in a statement addressed to The Collegian that she felt ASI senators were bullied into passing the resolution.

“Usually the meetings are reserved for students to speak about the issues,” Farnesi said. “So it was already a bit unusual that there was a professor speaking. That, along with the fact that he was speaking with a raised voice and an angry tone, made it feel like he was bullying the senators.”

Prior to Thatcher speaking at the meeting, no students had openly spoken about passing a tobacco ban resolution on campus.

Recently, Farnesi spoke with President Welty about the resolution, explaining that it was passed by the senators, but also that she did not support it because of the extenuating circumstances of how it was passed.

“The ball is in President Welty’s court now,” Farnesi said.

The resolution itself asks President Welty to “support the creation of a campus-wide policy to prohibit tobacco use on campus; and therefore that ASI asks President Welty to consider the creation and implementation of such a policy.”

ASI Senator of Resident Affairs Sean Kiernan wrote the resolution.

“The resolution was passed with a majority vote,” Jaime Moncayo said. “But the resolution is just a recommendation. It has no actual strength.”

Moncayo explained that Kiernan brought forth the resolution when students began complaining about smoking on campus. Then, it was written up and presented to ASI senators.

Farnesi believes that the bill wasn’t presented to ASI senators correctly. For example, the bill was only presented as an action item at the meetings and never as an informational item. Therefore, senators only had a limited time to study and learn about the bill. It was a very unusual and unique circumstance, Farnesi said.  She allowed senators to reconsider the bill at the next meeting.

Another concern Farnesi had with the bill was that students were promised extra credit to come to the ASI senators meeting and speak on behalf of the tobacco-ban resolution.

“We want students to come forward and speak because of their beliefs, not because they were promised extra credit,” Farnesi said.

Senators chose not to re-examine the bill, though, as they did not want to make such a process habitual.

One of the other concerns that Farnesi presented was that the campus is already struggling without resources and budget cuts.

“There are certainly more important issues going on right now,” Farnesi said. “We are struggling with budget cuts. I don’t think we should be allocating resources to something like this.”

One of the groups at Fresno State in favor of a tobacco-free campus is Project Individuals, Mentors, and Peers Advocating Control of Tobacco, also known as Project IMPACT.

Melanie Ruvalcaba is a member of Project IMPACT and a graduate student in the public heath program at Fresno state. Ruvalcaba said the group has about 30 members.

“Project IMPACT is collecting signatures and petitioning students to create a smoke-free campus,” Ruvalcaba said. “So far, we have about 1,500 signatures. We have a goal of 4,000 signatures, and when we meet that goal we will present the petition to President Welty.”

Ruvalcaba explained that Project IMPACT strongly supports the tobacco-ban resolution passed by ASI.

“We want to promote a smoke-free campus and present information to the students and staff about the effects of smoking and secondhand smoke,” Ruvalcaba said. “Many of our members have concerns over the health effects of smoking and secondhand smoke.”

Ruvalcaba explained that Project IMPACT members also had concerns about the image that Fresno State students were presenting to the younger students at University High School’s campus.

Another major concern presented was the excessive amount of smoking areas on campus.

“We have over 20 smoking areas on campus,” Ruvalcaba said. “To me, that just seems ridiculous.” Ruvalcaba added that California State University, San Diego has 12 smoking locations on campus while California State University, San Francisco has four smoking areas.

Ruvalcaba said there is no reason for Fresno State to have 20 smoking areas on campus.

When asked about the use of resources, Ruvalcaba suggested that a smoke-free campus might even save the school money.

“Many of our workers spend a lot of time maintaining the cigarette butts that are left on the ground,” Ruvalcaba said. “Smoking is not a constitutional right. We can’t smoke in bars or at restaurants. We just want to bring the same principles to campus.”

“Students are not going to wake up tomorrow and suddenly have a smoke-free campus,” Farnesi said. “If President Welty does choose to implement this, it is going to take a significant amount of time.”