Policy Recommendations on Smoking Ban


Filed with the Committee for a Smoke Free Campus

Recommendations for a Better Smoke Free Policy at UCF

Richard A. Ries, Graduate Studies

24 February 2013

            UCF made a reasoned, noble, important decision last year to make the nation’s second largest campus smoke free and join a list of over 500 campuses nationwide that have gone smoke free. The campaign, “Catch Your Breath UCF,” has been well communicated through signs and e-mail reminders.  Smoke cessation programs are available on campus, though their attendance might be low.

Despite its good intentions, the policy has failed, and may have even created a backlash of “protest” smokers. The ban can only be said to be flouted. The bulk of the UCF citizenry – students, faculty and staff – are nonsmokers. But a sizeable minority of students continues to smoke, and flout the policy on a daily basis, particularly in key areas such as in front of the library and near other buildings that had former “smoke zones.” People continue to light up socially, and while walking across lawns in between classes or on the way to parking garages. This population includes first time smokers, tobacco addicts, students smoking to exercise what they consider to be civil disobedience or simple coolness, and an array of international students who come from nations and cultures where smoking is far more widespread, and bans are not in place. The idealism that goes into the ban – that fellow students will gently ask smokers to refrain from lighting up – does not exist in the real world of social awkwardness, fear of “narcing” on a student, and a general belief that one has a “right” to smoke outdoors, on campus or not. To date, while I have seen a number of smoking infractions, I have never seen anyone kindly ask someone else to extinguish their cigarette.

The policy needs improvement, and it needs to become part of the Honor Code. The smoke free policy first of all needs star power endorsement. The ban is probably associated first with President Hitt (as if he personally imposed the policy by fiat) and second with simply a “faceless bureaucracy” that large campuses like UCF become known for. Both of these ingrained concepts might render smoking – particularly for the rebellious or cool smoker – even more desirable. A good campaign needs some stars to donate their services as they do for the American Library Association’s reading campaign (posters of David Bowie reading) or American Dairy Farmers (a diverse body of celebrities with milk mustaches). We need Shaq involved, and for our media offices to contact other stars like Miss Florida to see if they will lend their name to posters or videos. Celebrity sells. It would be helpful if both U.S. senators taped a message too. Senator Rubio has a good sense of humor and might even be persuaded to spoof his own water sip moment following the last State of the Union Address.

The second step the university must take is to make a lengthy and serious student video about the policy – akin to the sexual harassment videos – and make sure students verify that they have seen the video by taking and passing an online test before their WebCourse accounts can be activated. After passing the test about the policy, UCF should require all students, each semester on MyUCF, to sign an electronic agreement with an electronic signature:

“I understand that the University of Central Florida is a smoke free environment. By signing my name, I agree that I shall personally abide by the campus policy.  At no time shall I smoke any products while on the premises, nor shall I aid or abet others in smoking. I understand that the smoking policy is an integral part of the UCF drug policy, Honor Code and Code of Ethics. I understand that smoking on campus violates the Honor Code, and that violations of the policy may come with consequences, including, but not limited to, financial fines and loss of campus privileges.”

The second step, of course, will be to enforce the policy, and that will require at least a few patrols (perhaps volunteers) to police the campus, particularly in areas where the policy is frequently flaunted, such as right in front of the Hitt Library. While enforcement of the policy may only need to be in play for a limited time – say for a three year trial period (and will be subject to derision) the policy as it stands is equally subject to derision.

The offender’s name needs to be taken on an official ticket, and he or she must be sent a fine or can pay on the spot with a credit card or UCF ID. Unpaid fines after 30 days should result in freezes on library cards and releases of transcripts – and it should be communicated that smoking fine violations will become part of a student’s permanent record that go to perspective employers and other academic institutions. The first infraction should be $25, the second a heftier $50, and a third violation within an academic year should generate 20 hours of community service and an appearance before a joint student and faculty committee.

A student led smoke police squad – perhaps with a catchy name like Knights Against Lights – would be trained to first politely ask the offender to put out their cigarette, and only after a refusal issue the ticket. At no time should an incident result in a serious confrontation; if smokers adamantly refuse to comply, they should at the very least be reminded that they have put their name to an Honor Code. Students who sign up to donate time to Knights Against Lights could receive incentives.

Signing one’s name to an agreement is a powerful psychology and invaluable life lesson about ethics and the sense of self. Most rational people – including young people – take their signature very seriously. The reliance on voluntary adherence to the policy, without consequences or personal involvement via an electronic signature, will not come to implementation in the foreseeable future. Though no policy can be full proof, the electronic signature may greatly improve the chances of success for a smoking ban that has proven to neither work nor be enforced. The other recommendations for the ban will hopefully help the campus make the policy work better next academic year.


DEA within rights to engage in surveillance sans warrant

By Richard A. Ries
Guest Columnist, Central Florida Future
Published: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 10:01

A surveillance case from northern Wisconsin has caused some ripples of interest on the Internet. The Magana family had a farm that was apparently harvesting something a little more lucrative than corn, wheat or soybeans. Deep inside the woods, and surrounded by signs that read, “No Trespassing,” the Maganas grew a sizable amount of marijuana.
Evidence of the activity came about from surveillance cameras installed surreptitiously on the land by the Drug Enforcement Agency. The DEA sought no warrant to install the cameras; they only sought one after reviewing footage of the film. Since the properties were heavily wooded and posted with signs, the owners were entitled to an expectation of privacy, the Magana’s attorneys said.

No one disputes that marijuana was grown. What is at stake is whether evidence procured in such a manner is legal. Visions of federal agents walking over no trespassing signs and installing cameras can seem harrowing and evocative of an Orwellian Thought Police, so let’s try to understand why the courts — including the Supreme Court — will likely side with the DEA.

The case is about expectations of privacy as citizens. We have learned in the 21st century that we shouldn’t reasonably expect too much privacy on the Internet. We know that our digital footprints are easily tracked, that texts are stored in servers and that our cellphone calls are logged.

We have also learned not to expect too much privacy outside. A great deal of our driving is caught on videotape, not only at red lights and toll booths, but increasingly on highways. Some high schools have cameras in hallways and cafeterias. Now there is much talk of implementing them in classrooms as well, with Indiana University beginning to film some final exams to prevent cheating.

What right to privacy did the Maganas genuinely expect when they chose to grow pot in a field? Does merely posting a no trespassing sign free us up to engage in illegal activity? It is easy to think that “my property is mine to do with as I please.” The Internet outrage has more to do with senses of personal liberty many feel about growing or smoking marijuana — and less to do with an understanding of property rights. Land ownership is not absolute. There is no magic shield that protects you from zero surveillance on a large tract of land.

The Fourth Amendment is a check against abuse of power. It guarantees that citizens are protected against unreasonable search and seizure. The Founding Fathers certainly lived in an agrarian nation and knew that individuals often owned large farms and estates, but extended no right to privacy in such open spaces. An important Supreme Court case, U.S. v. Oliver (1984) established an “open fields” doctrine, which established that police entering private property does not create a police state.

In other words, a field being filmed is not the same as getting randomly frisked or a police officer rummaging through your refrigerator without a warrant.

While it is understandable for libertarians or legalization of marijuana proponents to be outraged about the DEA’s actions, we have to again return to a term that guides the philosophy of many of our laws: reasonableness. It would be more than unreasonable if the DEA (or any law enforcement agency) secretly installed a camera inside of a house, particularly a bathroom or a bedroom. The cameras that were installed on the Magana’s property were not done so randomly but occurred because of a reasonable tip from a logger. They were not spied on in an unreasonable manner, particularly when an airplane or satellite photo could easily demonstrate that marijuana was being grown.
While it is too sweeping to embrace Mark Zuckerberg’s maxim that “privacy is dead,” we should expect it to be protected in the four hemispheres the Constitution guarantees it: in our homes, on our bodies, in our papers and in our effects.

Polemic Against Coke Advertising on UCF Campus



By Richard Ries
Guest Columnist
Published: Sunday, November 11, 2012
Updated: Sunday, November 11, 2012 15:11
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Here at UCF, when you exit your Lynx shuttle bus near the Education Complex, you’re not greeted by a statue of John Dewey — you’re welcomed by a pair of Coke machines. Stroll up to the Humanities building, and there’s no bust of Shakespeare — there’s a Coke machine. Walking to the Union through the main corridor? Stop and get a Coke, as there are several machines you must walk by. The Union itself is nothing short of a repository for Coke products and logos. There’s a Coke machine just about everywhere on the UCF campus, including at the student pharmacy. Things go better with Coke. Even Ambien. When you walk into the Recreation and Wellness Center, you have to walk past the all-you-can-drink fountain of Coke products placed there by Subway. A few of the Coke machines near the workout equipment feature only Dasani and sports drinks, but you don’t have to go very far to get your Coke, either.

There’s little theme to the UCF campus beyond its manicured lawns and Coke machines. Instead of statues of the great men and women in history whose genius should inspire us, or homages to the Seminoles or Spanish explorers of early Florida, we have Coke machines. UCF is a branding and logo paradise for Coke marketers. You will see the red and white logo countless times during your stay here, every hour of every day. In fact, you don’t see too many displays of Knights or Pegasus — you see Coke machines. So much so, you might just become a consumer. I think that’s the plan. At UCF, it’s more than marketing — it’s assault. Coke executives — and lots of soft drink consumers, due to heavy marketing — like to use the word “choice.” The libertarian adage is that we are “free to choose” and that such a fine company as Coca-Cola “makes choices available for its consumers.”

Baloney. Everyone who thinks they have a “choice” in the matter, look squarely into the mirror — you’ve been snookered. Sugar is marketed so heavily to most of us that by the time we can vote, we’ve been brainwashed into thinking we are “making choices.” It starts with sugary cereals, candies to mark any holiday, and when the candy season ends with Easter, the Good Humor Man begins making his summer rounds, peddling his wares with the savvy of a drug dealer. Restaurants feature all-you-can-drink sodas so that the satiation never occurs. The “adults make choices” philosophy was the same lie and propaganda tool the tobacco industry spun for half a century.

Lastly, it’s that your health is for sale. The nonpartisan Bush/Clinton initiative took painstaking efforts to get soda out of secondary schools — to make substantial inroads in the fights against teen obesity and diabetes — only so that UCF students can be tempted by copious amounts of Coke. Because intoxicated students or ones smoking cigarettes have immediate ramifications to their surroundings, the slow processes of obesity and diabetes — the most important health issues of our time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — are given a back seat. Coke gets the nod and the wink from university officials, and student welfare gets compromised.

UCF went through a soul-searching process last year and decided to ban cigarettes from campus. It should continue modernizing itself by making a dramatic reduction in the sugared Coke available to students. Most vending machines are filled mostly with sugared products; they should be mostly diet sodas, juices and milk. All-you-can-drink fountains should be abolished. UCF should also teach its tens of thousands of students that there is an open-market economy – and one company shall not dictate advertising on campus. The many logos should be removed as an affront to the goals and values of a serious education. In the meantime, students should boycott Coke. In modern American culture, consumer choices are sometimes the only way to make a daily political statement. You can make one by stating that you are more than a walking sales statistic for Coke and that you are more than a naive target for Coke branding. Just imagine if students graduated healthier — not heavier – and that human health and longevity was of infinitely more paramount concern to UCF than Coke dollars.

Now that would be sweet.