Staff Affairs chair favors additional staff input on proposed tobacco ban
Staff Affairs Chair Ali Bretthauer said she has received a variety of opinions from University of Idaho staff about the proposed tobacco ban since the policy was introduced for discussion last year.
“Some staff are in favor of the policy and have communicated with me that they support it,” she said. “And the former chair and I received emails from three different people who were not in favor of it.”
Bretthauer is a member of the Tobacco Task Force and said Staff Affairs has already endorsed the proposed policy. She said she is concerned, however, with how well individual staff members are being heard on the issue.
“One of the concerns of the Tobacco Task Force was understanding staff needs,” she said. “But I don’t think that, looking back on it now, I don’t think that we do fully understand.”
Bretthauer said the opinion of staff members on the issue is important because there are more staff than faculty at UI, and staff are usually on campus longer hours than both students and faculty members. She said Staff Affairs could be doing more although she has previously expressed her concern with staff members and invited them to participate in ongoing tobacco discussions.
Staff Affairs has talked about the possibility of emailing a survey to all UI staff regarding the proposed tobacco ban, according to Bretthauer, but she said she is reluctant to do so due to historically low participation rates. The highest rate of completion is normally around 53 percent, she said. Despite the moderate participation, Bretthauer said she has also received a few responses.
“It’s really hard to get a full understanding … of how people really feel about an issue until they hear, ‘Oh, all of a sudden there’s going to be a change,'” she said.
Former Staff Affairs Chair Brian Mahoney said he personally worked with the Tobacco Task Force last year, when the conversation about a change to the smoking policy was its early stages. While on the task force, he said he was passionate about creating a smoke-free policy at UI instead of a full tobacco-free policy.
“When you start looking at tobacco, you’re really looking at more of a total health issue,” Mahoney said. “My feeling right now is that this campus just isn’t prepared for tobacco-free.”
Mahoney said he even saw some support for his smoke-free proposal within the task force, particularly from ASUI members, including former ASUI President Max Cowan.
Mahoney felt his own voice was heard because he was adamant about his ideas.
“I didn’t give them a choice,” he said. “I’m a very opinionated person and I’ll give it to you whether you want it or not.”
He said the task force’s choice to move in a different direction wasn’t the reason he left the task force.
Although Mahoney said he thought the task force did a good job of hearing the concerns of staff members who gave opinions to Staff Affairs, he said he thinks a lot of staff are complacent about the issue or feel as though their voices don’t matter to the administration.
Bretthauer said staff members who have strong opinions about the proposed policy should voice their thoughts — she suggested scheduling a meeting with her or attending a Staff Affairs meeting. She said if a majority of staff members were to give their opinions about the proposed policy it would positively add to the tobacco discussion and could hold some weight for UI President Chuck Staben, who gets to make the final decision.
“I think anytime you get people’s opinions it’s going to help expand the discussion and inform the discussion,” she said. “It’s very time consuming and it’s very cumbersome to do so, so I understand why people don’t. But it’s a really important part of a process like this.”
Erin Bamer can be reached at email@example.com