Statement By Montgomery College President Brian K. Johnson
On His Support of the College’s Tobacco-free Policy and His Commitment to Working with Neighbors
I support Montgomery College’s current tobacco-free policy, which was set by our Board of Trustees in August 2008, prohibiting the use of tobacco products on College property. I believe Montgomery College has a responsibility to our students and employees to create a healthy environment and encourage healthy behavior. However, I recognize that the policy had an unintended impact on some neighbors, and I have instructed College administrators to work collaboratively with our neighbors to improve the implementation of the policy.
As an unintended consequence of the policy, small groups of students and employees were smoking in neighborhoods adjacent to the College’s Rockville Campus, rather than on the public sidewalks along Mannakee Street and Route 355. These groups loitered, littered, and parked in the Princeton Place neighborhood, prompting residents to request Montgomery College close the fence opening between the Rockville Campus and Princeton Place. The College installed the requested fence on March 5, 2009, which resulted in complaints from other community members about the restricted access to campus services and bus lines.
The fence is a short-term solution to an immediate problem. Montgomery College wanted to help our nearby neighbors who were adversely affected by groups congregating on their street and driveways. We are now looking at many long-term options and nothing is off the table. These options include creative, yet controlled use of other adjoining property and the possible designation of smoking areas, as well as enhancement of smoking associated facilities, to reduce the motivation and need for students and College employees to trespass on private property or congregate in residential areas. The College will continue to work with neighbors and the City of Rockville to develop the best solutions that will allow the fence between the Rockville Campus and Princeton Place to reopen.
At a community forum on March 16 and the Montgomery College Board of Trustees meeting on March 17, people opposed to the fence spoke about safety and security concerns for those on the campus. The new fence does not pose any danger and is consistent with current safety and evacuation plans for the Rockville Campus.
Our challenge is to balance the responsibilities of the College with the concerns raised by neighbors who want a fence and the bikers and pedestrians who have been inconvenienced by the fence. The College will continue to collaborate with all of the stakeholders involved to reach the best solution.