SGA official: Tobacco ban would infringe upon WKU students’ rights

Nick Bratcher

The Sept. 13 Student Government

Association decision to pass a resolution supporting a campus-wide

ban on all tobacco products comes with a catch — WKU must first

lift the housing contract that requires freshmen and sophomores to

live in dorms.

Kaylee Egerer, speaker of the SGA

Senate, said she never expects the Board of Regents to enact the

SGA’s version of the proposed tobacco ban because the housing

requirement is such a key factor.

However, Egerer said the SGA needed

to link the tobacco and housing resolutions together because it is

“infringing on students’ rights” if it requires students who use

tobacco products to live on a campus that is


“A tobacco ban is totally unfair and unrealistic,”

Egerer said. “When the bill was drafted, it wasn’t asking for the

housing requirement to be lifted, but in order for there to ever be

any support from the students for a tobacco ban, then they can’t be

required to live on campus.”

Brian Kuster, director of Housing and Residence Life,

said the SGA resolution is impossible with WKU’s financial


The financial model the Student Life Foundation

adopted before renovating all of the dorms in the past decade

requires them to be at capacity in order to repay bondholders,

Kuster said.


“We have a $78 million debt on the residence halls,

so we need to keep them full,” he said. “It takes money to do and

upkeep the kind of renovations that we have.”

Kuster also said WKU requires freshmen and sophomores

to live on campus because it aids in retention.

“We have research here of our own

here at the university that students that live here on campus

graduate at a higher rate than students that don’t,” Kuster said.

“They stay in school at a higher rate than students that don’t live

on campus, so there’s educational value to it.”

President Gary Ransdell has said the passage of the

tobacco ban would require approval from not just SGA, but the

University Senate and Staff Council as well. Ransdell even visited

the SGA meeting on Oct. 4 to clarify WKU’s position on the

necessity of its on-campus housing requirement.

Ransdell said WKU is taking steps to

ensure that students who wish to live on campus — upperclassmen and

underclassmen — can do so in the future.

“What we’re doing is building more residence halls

for upper-class students which will open up beds for incoming new

students,” Ransdell said in reference to future apartment-style

dorms on Kentucky Street.

Kuster said many of the complaints against the

requirement should really be addressed to the students themselves,

particularly upperclassmen holding onto campus housing contracts

through much of the summer.

 “That’s why we end up in the summer time in a crunch

because we’ve got students that say they’re going to live on campus

and then decide not to at the last minute,” Kuster said. “We have

more and more students that wait and make a decision later on and

holding a space that we can’t give to an incoming student.”

Though the SGA resolution does include the housing

requirement, Egerer said the resolution was not intended to develop

a position for or against the requirement itself.

“We understand why that requirement is in place

because WKU has a lot of ground to cover to reimburse the debt that

comes from renovating residence halls,” Egerer said.

“Students live on campus. It doesn’t make sense to

tell somebody, ‘You have to live on campus for two years — you have

to — but you can’t use tobacco when you’re of age.’”