By Marpheen Chann
Political Science Major & Student Senator
Throughout the semester I have heard opinions from both sides concerning the smoking ban, which is scheduled to take effect on January 1st, 2013. While I neither agree nor disagree on whether or not the smoking ban is the right course of action for the university, I am concerned about the top down approach to an issue that affects the USM community as a whole. The impending prohibition, which not only affects students but also professors and faculty members alike, should have been approached from the community level rather than the administrative level.
From my point of view, there has to be a better way of talking about the issue and a better way of building consent. Forums aren’t enough at this point because I honestly believe that administrative officials had their hearts set on implementing this policy, one that was formulated largely by those who supported the measure. The fact that the administration came into the discussion with a bias in favor of the ban affects the credibility of those involved in the policy-making process.
Fixing USM can’t happen from a strictly top-down approach. Education is a partnership and requires the participation of those involved in the process. Education, having a long and vital history in relation to the health of Democracy, should be approached from a Democratic point of view and any issue that comes up should have the consensus of those affected by the policies that are put in place. If USM wants to fix itself then it needs to first avoid creating a rift in the student-university relationship.
This university needs to take a good hard look at how this relationship, so vital to the overall quality of the university and the education that it provides, is affected in the present and how it will mold the prospective graduates opinion of the school and of their overall experience. Will they view this institution as one which improved their quality of life, both in terms of future job prospects and quality of experience, or will they look back and feel as if they simply passed through without any input.
This university needs to take a step back and avoid bulldozing over legitimate concerns expressed by students and faculty members. Administrative officials really need to look at the possible consequences of its top down approach. If officials are wondering why only a fraction of a population of nearly 10,000 students show up to forums or discussions, or why a fraction of the student population responds or gives feedback to inquiries, etc., then maybe they should look at the way they handled this situation. Students are tired of showing up to these forums, expressing their concerns, and ultimately feeling as if they were otherwise ignored.
With all that said, I do not ask President Kalikow to change her mind about whether or not the smoking ban is right or wrong, but to take into consideration the consequences in terms of the student-university relationship. Will students feel that they were a vital part of USM and their academic experience, or will they feel that they were just passing through on their way to a, hopefully, brighter future?
In closing, I ask President Kalikow and the USM administration to postpone the implementation of this ban for one semester and allow for a University wide referendum on whether or not a ban is the right course of action for this institution. Let advocates from both sides organize and publicly (not in closed off committee and administrative meetings) engage the USM community. This referendum, whether the ban survives or not, will help build consensus and will show to the student body and faculty that USM’s “got consent”.
Candidate for Portland City Council District 5.
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