Smoking, Alcohol Policies Discussed Years Ago

The St. Mary’s Public Safety Advisory Council (PSAC) was a group of students on campus that worked with Public Safety to discuss on-campus issues about policies that directly affected student life. The group has since been dissolved as many of the students that were involved graduated from the College following the Spring 2017 semester.

In an email interview, Tressa Setlak, Director of Public Safety at the College, explained why PSAC no longer met, saying “The students disbanded [PSAC] and told me that they thought that PS was moving in the right direction and they were comfortable no longer meeting as a group.”

But Grayson McNew, a senior and former member of PSAC described his experience with the ending of the group in a different way, saying “After the 2017 school year ended and I returned in the fall, I never received notifications about the committee meeting again. I have been made aware that they were supposedly meeting under a new name, ‘COPS’ but never received further notification about it.”

Setlak described the policies that Public Safety and PSAC discussed as “pretty much anything that was going on including alcohol, smoking, parking, traditions, cameras and lighting.” McNew went into detail explaining what policies PSAC worked with Public Safety on: “the campus ‘ban’ on cigarettes, a ‘ban’ on hard liquor, and the idea was floated of a new social host policy;” McNew also mentioned that the group “also discussed the implementation of security cameras in parking lots eventually phasing into buildings but nothing conclusive came of these talks.”

PSAC and Public Safety discussed solutions like “creating ‘designated smoking places’ around campus. These would be covered areas where students, faculty, and staff would be allowed to smoke. But McNew noted that students and staff/faculty on campus “took issue with this as we were concerned about punishment and enforcement of these policies.”

There was also confusion as to how a ban on smoking would be enforced, according to McNew, whose “primary concern was that we continue to compare ourselves to other colleges in Maryland.” He compared the College to “[University of Maryland], where they do have this in place, students can simply walk across the road and be ‘off-campus’ in downtown College Park. We do not have that luxury here and thus a ‘cigarette ban’ here at St. Mary’s would effectively equate to an administration mandate for students to stop smoking period.”

PSAC also discussed a campus ban on hard liquor. McNew said that “The premise was to ban all liquor on campus above a certain proof with the intent to decrease the number of hospital trips due to over-consumption.” But there were also questions about enforcement of the ban, which “seemed almost impossible without Public Safety being able to inspect drinks – even unmarked closed containers – and it would restrict those who legally could purchase alcohol.”

There was also the same issue with the ban of smoking and the proximity of off-campus locations with the ban of liquor, “Students at every other college have the opportunity to walk to bars in the area – where these policies do not apply – or to go off campus. Here we have only one option and you must drive. We worried that by doing this we may push those above the age of 21 to drive off campus greatly increasing the risk to students.”

The last policy that PSAC and Public Safety discussed was the social host policy, which also had problems with enforcement and campus proximity to alternative options, “While we all agreed that the idea of holding those who threw parties which resulted in damage to either school or personal property was a good one, we debated how to enforce such a policy. Again we stressed the uniqueness of our situation here and that at most other colleges this appeared to be geared directly toward fraternity parties; which we do not have on campus. Would we have every student who wanted friends over register this as an event with Public Safety?”

McNew also mentioned that “These policies were put into place this year without any further discussion on the matter, and with the disbanding of the PSAC we no longer have a voice in new policies. These are students lives we are talking about here and thus these issues need to be considered with the utmost diligence.”

When asked if PSAC should be reinstated, McNew enthusiastically responded with “an unequivocal yes!” he explained the importance of the committee,  “This committee may be the most important one that existed during my time in SGA. It helped coordinate Hallowgreens safety procedures; we instituted the police checkpoints at the college entrances, we helped procure the large lights behind the Greens, and helped provide our guidance to Public Safety on the protocol for the evening. This committee gave students a voice in their own safety, it gave students a way to check new policies before they were implemented and I believe generally aided in relations between public safety and the community. ”

Setlak said that she “certainly would not mind bringing it back.  One thing that I got out of it was staying current on what students are interested in and concerned about.  I think there is potential to use this group to make positive changes on the campus and build the student/Public Safety relationship.”

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.