College trustees hear smoking complaint

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At its regular May meeting on Monday, the Flathead Valley Community College Board of Trustees raised the age for the senior tuition benefit to 65 and heard a student complaint about the campus smoking policy. 

During citizen comments, Jackson Hokanson advocated making the campus tobacco-free. The college now only allows smoking in designated areas. 

He offered statistics during his presentation, including that tobacco is a public health crisis that killed more Americans than terrorism, World War II, cocaine, heroine, alcohol, vehicular accidents, homicide or suicide combined.

“As an educational institute, we have the responsibility to not only educate our students, but also protect them as well as faculty, staff and visitors from health hazards on campus,” Hokanson said.

He said secondhand smoke kills 50,000 people each year, and that about four Montanans die every day of a tobacco-related disease with a related cost exceeding $305 million. 

“Our poorly placed designated smoking area is a commonly traveled route between the childhood center and the rest of campus,” he said.

Hokanson pointed out that the new nursing/health building is adjacent to this site as well. He alleged that there have been no efforts to make sure people smoking on campus are of legal age. 

Trustees don’t act on items brought up under citizens’ comments. However, trustee Tom Harding asked Hokanson to provide copies of his research to the board, and trustee Mark Holston said he would like so see the issue revisited as a future agenda item.

The board has considered making the campus tobacco-free but decided that policy might prevent some displaced workers from taking retraining for new careers.


Under action items, the board voted to raise the age from 62 to 65 for seniors who pay fees, not tuition, for credit classes. College President Jane Karas said during the policy’s first reading that this change grandfathers in current students as long as they are continuously enrolled. She also said the policy would have no impact on the annual Senior Institute. 

In her president’s report, Karas announced that the college has secured Karl Rangikawhiti Leonard, a New Zealand artist specializing in Maori ceremonial costume design, for a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence position next year.

She also said that, following her recent trip to China, the college received a visit from the president of a Chinese college of business and finance. 

“He was very interested in how we might be able to create new partnerships,” Karas said.

The board also elected Robert Nystuen as chairman, John Phelps as vice chairman and Ralene Sliter as secretary to the board and appointed Monica Settles as clerk.  

Reporter Candace Chase may be reached at 758-4436 or by email at

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