GOSHEN — There’s a debate gaining ground in Indiana right now surrounding whether or not the state’s public colleges and universities should be tobacco free. A number of the state’s institutions have already gone the tobacco-free route, and several others, such as Indiana State University, are in the process of considering such a move.

But for one local college here in the city of Goshen, that debate is and has long been a non-issue.

Founded in 1894, Goshen College is a four-year liberal arts college located on the city’s south side. The institution is affiliated with the Mennonite Church.

According to Chad Coleman, director of campus safety for Goshen College, smoking on the campus is completely prohibited, and has been for decades, if not longer.

“I can’t tell you the exact year the ban was put in place. I’ve been here since 2002, and it definitely predates me,” Coleman said of the ban. “According to our dean of students, she doesn’t recall us ever having smoking on campus. So I don’t know if I can designate a specific year it was started. But she has been here over 20 years, and it has never been something that has been permitted.”

As for what led to the college’s long-time ban on smoking, Coleman said he thinks it has a lot to do with the college’s ties to the Mennonite faith.

“I think it just kind of runs counter to the overall mission of the institution with its connection to the church and Mennonites, etc., in a lot of the same ways alcohol has never been allowed on campus either,” he said.

Enforcement

While the college staff does have to deal with the occasional violation from time to time, Coleman said overall the campus community seems to be on board with the school’s no smoking policy. In fact, Coleman said the number of student and faculty smokers on campus has actually seen a dramatic decline over the past two to three years, making enforcement of the ban that much easier for the college.

“It has been a pretty well respected thing I think,” Coleman said of the college’s smoking ban. “I’d say it has definitely been less of a problem in the last two or three years, and I think that’s really because there are just fewer students who are smoking cigarettes for the most part. So it hasn’t really been a big deal on campus. I’ve been here for 15 years in various capacities, and we’ve had issues where students have respected the rules for the most part, and they go off campus, but sometimes they end up in someone’s yard, or on the sidewalk, or they’re throwing their cigarette butts in a place they shouldn’t be. We also had a bus stop problem a few years ago, where they would go to the bus stop to smoke, so the patrons of the bus stop were not happy about it. Or we’ve had nontraditional, adult ed students who are kind of new and don’t realize it’s not allowed. But really, overall, it hasn’t been much of an issue.”

When someone on campus is found to have violated the smoking ban, Coleman said the college tends to err on the side of leniency, especially with first-time violators, and just issues a warning.

“We’re typically pretty fair with them as far as letting them know that it’s not permitted on campus,” Coleman said. “Now, if we have a student do it who we know better, we’ll give them what we call a category-one standards violation for smoking on campus, which is typically a $25 fine. That’s particularly true for those who are living in residence halls. We’ve had some who stay on the perimeter of campus, and we’ve said ‘Hey, you need to go a little further, you’re not quite off campus’, so they go across the street sometimes to the hospital grounds and things like that. But if somebody does it in their room, for example, and we know that that’s happening, particularly anywhere indoors, that’s more likely where we would process it.”

Smoking areas nixed

Coleman said the college, back in 2004 or 2005, had actually considered installing a designated smoking area on campus, though the idea was eventually nixed due to an inability to secure enough support from the campus community.

“It got bandied about here, but ultimately it never passed, because I think some people looked at it like if we’re a no smoking campus, why would we have a smoking zone,” Coleman said. “So it was a little bit of a philosophical argument that we had about that. So today there is no designated space on our campus between sidewalks and roads to where we say ‘Hey, it’s OK to do it here.’

“I’d say the closest thing we have is there’s a bench out on the southeast corner of campus, out behind our track,” he added. “There’s a bike path there, and there are a couple park benches there. I know some students have gone there to smoke, and we’ve considered that OK as far as being off the grounds, because they’re intentionally keeping it away from the buildings and where all the traffic is on campus.”

Follow John on Twitter at @jkline_TGN.

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