WVU Board of Governors approves changes to campus tobacco policy

MORGANTOWN — Changes to WVU’s campus tobacco policy prohibiting the use of electronic smoking devices and vaping products were adopted during Friday’s meeting of the WVU Board of Governors.
The new policy has a tentative effective date of Aug. 1 and will apply to anyone on WVU property, including the WVU Institute of Technology and Potomac State College.
WVU General Counsel Gary Furbee explained that the proposed change was subjected to an extended comment period during which 33 comments were received — most of which were either strongly in support of the changes or strongly opposed.
One point most of the comments agreed on, however, is that a policy without enforcement is meaningless, or as one commentator put it, “The campus currently does absolutely nothing to enforce its tobacco free campus policy, so why even waste the effort to amend the rule to ban all types of smoking.”
Furbee said lack of enforcement was one of driving forces behind the desire to reexamine WVU rules regarding tobacco use on campus.
He said the reason for the delayed implementation date is to give committees focusing on various aspects of the rule change — marketing, enforcement and cessation efforts — time to get new processes in place.
“Step one is to get the rule out there so then the marketing group and enforcement group can put in place the mechanisms to do just those things —  market it, rebrand it across campus, implement enforcement and have the process in place to do that,” Furbee said.
He went on to say that the task force that helped put together the new tobacco policy will shift into a steering committee charged with ensuring things like enforcement don’t become lax.
The policy allows the President’s office to exempt events that attract a large number of off-campus visitors from the policy on a case-by-case basis as long as tobacco use is restricted to designated outdoor areas.
Also during Friday’s meeting, Provost Joyce McConnell discussed the university’s decision to discontinue WVU’s participation in the Academic Common Market (ACM).
The ACM allows students to attend a school in one of the 15 participating states at in-state tuition rates if a desired major is not offered in the student’s home state.
“The Academic Common Market is something that really is a legacy of the past and the national trend is to not participate,” McConnell said, adding “Our surrounding states have been pulling out of the Academic Common Market.”
She said one of the  reasons for the program’s declining participation lies in complicated regulations  pertaining a student’s ability to change their course of study, which often means the student must  return home to reapply and can result in the loss of the ACM benefit or even a requirement to repay funds.
“Actually what we’re finding is that the success rate of the students in the Academic Common Market is actually much below the average. We don’t know why that is,” McConnell said. “What we’re hoping is, by changing the way in which we’re supporting them — not through the rigid rules of the ACM, but more flexible scholarships, that they’ll be better able to achieve.”
The WVU system will discontinue its ACM agreement for undergraduate students beginning with students entering in the summer 2020 term.
McConnell said students currently enrolled in the ACM program will not be impacted. She said withdrawing from the program will free up $2.8 million to be used for student scholarships.
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