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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

“Breathe Free” campaign uses budget for signs, stickers

The cost of implementing “Breathe Free UC Davis” has reached $74,868.25, according to the Smoke and Tobacco Free Communication Budget.

Beginning Jan. 1, “Breathe Free” has banned all smoke and tobacco products across campus, and signs announcing this mandate began going up in September 2013. In total, money spent on signage, meaning ash urn stickers, door stickers, window clings and banners, have dominated the budget, costing $67,580. Program communication has an allotted $77,000 for this first year, and an additional $15,000 for the next, after which the policy’s success will be evaluated and future funding will be considered.

While this amount appears modest within the University’s $3.8 billion yearly budget, it still presents a philosophical issue, according to Professor Gregory Clark of the Economics Department who is a member of the Budget and Planning Committee.

“It’s not so much the money, because it’s amazing how much we spent,” Clark said. “I think it’s more of a philosophical issue, of who decided that this was a good expenditure of the resources of the University.”

Barbara Brady, director of Communication, Administration and Resource Management for “Breathe Free,” said that the communication program’s goal is to affect cultural change around tobacco use in the Davis community, an outcome which they believe will manifest itself over time.

“The design and messaging of our signage program are intended to project the welcoming spirit of our campus and support the educational approach the campus is taking in introducing the new policy,” Brady said in an email.

 Clark stated however, that the new policy, which also bans products like e-cigarettes, has banned things that have no effect on other people.

“The question I have is: why is it the responsibility of the University?” Clark said. “It is a totally personal decision that they’re trying to modify. Is this the best use of the resources of the University?”

The resources spent on “Breathe Free UC Davis” were largely allotted toward communication, and within that fund, were primarily spent on signage.

Throughout campus, there are currently several hundred signs on or near building entrances, building exteriors, outdoor seating areas and other gathering places, according to Brady. The number and placements were largely chosen in order to replace existing smoking-related signs, particularly those which indicated previous smoking policies.

According to the Communication Budget, 8,000 brochures and 10,000 policy reminder cards were also printed, and Brady said they have been distributed to various audiences, like new students during orientation, and placed in around campus and in tool kits for anyone who wishes to support the new policy.

“The other question I have is: what effect will this have? Is there any sign that all these signs will have any benefit?” Clark said. “People see [the stickers], but they know already that in California you can’t smoke inside a building. You can’t smoke close to a building. There are still going to be people smoking at the University because there are still going to be people who smoke.”

 Clark said that while the effort to implement “Breathe Free” may amount to little change on campus, the amount spent is also tiny relative to the University’s budget.

For example, they’re redoing classrooms at present — lecture rooms — and one of the things they have to do is make the podiums Americans with Disabilities Act compliant. You’re talking about $75,000 to do one lecture room,” Clark said. “Things are incredibly expensive with the University.”

Kelly Ratliff, associate vice chancellor of the Office of Resource Management and Planning, said that though the University budget is largely composed of things like money from the state, students’ tuition and individual faculty members’ research grants, the funding for “Breathe Free” did not come from any of these external sources.

Instead, the funding came from entities on campus like the Memorial Union Bookstore and Student Housing. According to Ratliff, these units make their own money, but still use the Campus Accounting Office and HR Services, which allows the University to tax them. Additionally, the University puts money in a bank and earns interest, which also provides some revenue.

Interest and internal taxes are both part of a general category of unrestricted funds controlled by the Provost, and according to Ratliff, something like “Breathe Free’s” communication efforts would have been funded by this.

“So funding wasn’t literally taken away from somebody else, but once you spend money on this, you can’t spend it on something else,” Ratliff said.

The University’s financial planning begins in November, when the Regents adopt their budget, according to Ratliff. Early January, Gov. Jerry Brown follows with his budget proposal, and while state funding is only nine percent of the University’s funds, Ratliff said they still wait for it before planning their own budget, because it amounts to over $300 million.

Tuition is also a large part of the budget, and during the third week of Winter Quarter, the number of students on campus are counted; then in February of each year, the Provost sends out the year’s projection. According to Ratliff, financial decisions are usually wrapped up around July, which the new year for the budget starts.

However, Ratliff said that “Breathe Free” came off cycle, meaning that it was not part of the usual budget process.

“If it happens in the whole budget process, you can line everything up side by side and know what you’re going to do and what you’re not going to do,” Ratliff said. “This one had to come through with its own timeline, so then it’s more speculative. We don’t know what else might be out there, but the money’s spent.”

The unrestricted funds managed by the Provost and funding “Breathe Free UC Davis’” communication budget are typically used for one-time expenses.

“During the budget crisis, almost everything was [used to help] bridge the budget cuts,” Ratliff said. “In the current year, it could be used for anything, from noticing that there were waitlists last year and trying to add some additional sections to some courses, to something like ‘Breathe Free.’”

Ratliff also said that the unrestrictive one-time funds are also used to pay for international student advising, English as a Second Language Program instructors and developing some online courses.

According to Clark, there was no pressure group pushing for a mandate like “Breathe Free,” and that while the University did not spent a huge amount on it, it was still an odd decision to make.

“We can actually cost it out,” Clark said. “In terms of having another class offered, to get an instructor for that class costs typically something like $8,000 or $9,000. So the campaign is the same as giving up about 10 classes that undergraduates could have had. Or it could have paid for another 20 teaching assistants.”

The communication funding is currently set for two years, at the end of which it will be decided if additional funding is still needed, according to Brady.

“Rather than having these stickers out, there could be more teaching assistants. If you presented people with a choice, which would people rather have?” Clark said. “It’s not huge, but it just seems kind of frivolous … a frivolous use of the money on the campus.”


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