Riverland President's Column-- July 2011

Release Date: July 6, 2011

Dr. Terry Leas
Dr. Terry Leas

Effective July 1, 2011, Riverland Community College further restricted the use of tobacco on college property and became a Tobacco-free campus at all three of its locations in Albert Lea, Austin and Owatonna. The goal behind this new policy is not to punish smokers or tobacco users but to demonstrate Riverland’s commitment to creating a healthy, clean and safe learning and working environment for all students and employees.

At its March 2010 meeting, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees approved a resolution encouraging each college and university to consult with its employees and students about additional steps the institution should take to 1) educate employees and students about the danger of tobacco use to themselves and others; 2) provide information to employees and students about smoking cessation resources available; and 3) further restrict tobacco use.

Until July 1, Riverland prohibited smoking within all college-owned buildings and state vehicles. Smoking was allowed outside on campus property only at designated locations.

After consultation with Riverland employees and students via surveys, forums, student senate meetings, and a tobacco-free campus task force staffed with participants representing employee and student groups, the college’s administrative leadership approved implementing the new Tobacco use policy.

This new policy specifies “smoking, tobacco use, and tobacco sales (including the use or sales of smokeless tobacco products) are prohibited on college-owned, operated, or leased property, including in college-owned, rented, or leased vehicles. Free distribution of tobacco products on campus or at college-sponsored events is also prohibited.”

The rationale for the policy is to facilitate a healthier, cleaner, and safer campus environment, which is consistent with Riverland’s institutional principle of valuing people and conforms to the trustees’ resolution. The policy also aligns Riverland’s actions with its commitment to wellness principles: healthier students and employees are better positioned to contribute to Riverland’s and their own success.

Riverland could make this substantive change because of the generous support of the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), which will pay for signage at all three of Riverland’s campuses. At a time when college financial resources are shrinking at alarming rates, SHIP has provided funding to allow Riverland to display signs that alert, inform, and educate anyone who comes to our college. SHIP is a wonderful innovation that is helping Minnesotans improve their health and reduce health-care costs.

Special thanks goes to Ellen Kehr, Freeborn County SHIP Coordinator; Alice Englin, CPP, Freeborn County Family Services Collaborative & Freeborn County Partners In Prevention; Erin Simmons and Cherisa Templeton Broadwater, Program Managers, American Lung Association, MN, Clearway MN and the 4 Corners Partnership for all of their guidance and support. Ellen has been pivotal in obtaining funding for this initiative; Alice and Erin were especially helpful with administering the surveys during the early spring and providing information for policy development.

In an effort to support Riverland students and employees who wish to reduce and/or quit using tobacco products, a variety of tobacco cessation resources and services will be available through Riverland’s Student Services and Human Resources offices.