Last Updated: January 2, 2018, 7:21 pm

Veterans fight for right to smoke on Dixie campus


    A group of veterans at Dixie State University are speaking out against the tobacco ban. 

    The tobacco ban went into effect this semester. Although the ban isn’t strict and campus police aren’t issuing citations yet, Dean of Students Del Beatty said the ban will be more severe next fall. 

    Dave Gaspardo, a veteran and a junior integrated studies major from Springfield, Ill., said the ban breaches civil liberties and constitutional rights for free expression. 

    “I see it as an infringement of rights,” Gaspardo said. “Yes, I am a smoker. Yes, I am trying to quit. But … the [administration], I feel, is refusing to even compromise and have an area for smoking.” 

    Beatty said there was a lot of discussion about having smoking areas on campus, and the idea of a tobacco-free campus was thought of years ago by previous Dixie State University Student Association members. He said surveys were administered to students and the response was an overwhelming amount of students who said they wanted a tobacco-free campus. Beatty said administration has just recently been aware of the veterans’ concerns. 

    “People may not like it, and that’s their right, and that’s fine, but they had 3 and a half years to express that,” Beatty said.

    Gaspardo said compromise is key. 

    “This whole country is built on compromise,” Gaspardo said. “You have to settle on compromise somewhere. Not everybody can get everything they want.” 

    He said with today’s technology, students do a lot of research before they go to a school. 

    “Regardless of the popular mentality, a lot of students aren’t going to come here if they see a pattern of intolerance [and] elitism,” Gaspardo said. 

    Gaspardo said smoking has calming effects, and talking about war and battles in a historical context in class brings up powerful memories for veterans who have been in the “sandbox.” He said veterans should be allowed to leave class and have a cigarette to calm down. 

    “We understand that people don’t like to be around others’ smoking,” Gaspardo said. “We try to stay out of the way. An outright refusal is a slap in the face, especially since, to my knowledge, the majority of the smokers on campus are veterans. We wore the uniform for your right to say [we can’t smoke] but also our right to smoke.” 

    Health Sciences Dean Carole Grady said the student senator responsible for the ban approached her years ago, and she encouraged him to advocate for the ban.

    “If it is because of post-traumatic stress disorder, I certainly empathize with the veterans,” Grady said. “However, it doesn’t take much of a walk off campus if they need to smoke.”

    Gaspardo said for higher enrollment rates, administration needs to listen and work with minority groups on campus.

    “We are a small minority,” Gaspardo said. “But if you aren’t going to listen to us, why should we stay here? [Administration] wants to reflect the needs and values of the community; however, there are certain sections of the community that they are totally ignoring.”

    Beatty advised the veterans to contact the board of trustees to amend the policy.

    “If they want that, they need to work to change the policy,” he said. “But right now, you have to live by the policy.”

    Beatty said there are almost 1,700 campuses nationwide that are tobacco-free. He said DSU is the only institution other than Brigham Young University in the state of Utah that has taken on the tobacco ban.

    “This is not driven by any kind of religious view or making money or anything like that,” Beatty said. “It is driven because it is not healthy.

    Gaspardo said he has several friends who have attended DSU who have left and will never come back because they didn’t feel comfortable here. 

       “The way we see it is for them to outright deny us a smoking area does nothing but reinforce administration’s reputation for being elitist and intolerant,” Gaspardo said.