Rights vs Personal Freedoms

The passion that so many of us have to protect our freedoms comes from arguably the most well-known statement in the United States’  history, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain  unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

A common argument made by tobacco and non-tobacco users alike is centered on the issue of rights. Arguments are often rooted in a misunderstanding of what are considered fundamental/natural rights and the arguer does not recognize the differences between personal freedoms and constitutional rights. Neither the Declaration nor the Constitution could enumerate all the rights which were to be protected. They could, however point to the truth that there are certain rights that no one can give or take from us that assure our own safety and happiness. Of our unalienable rights, one is our right to make personal choices. Neither the government nor anyone else can dictate the choices we make because we have “minds that are free.” They can, however, assign and dictate consequences to those choices. In fact, the government has a responsibility to regulate and enforce consequences of personal choices that may or do infringe on the equal rights of others.

Using tobacco is a personal choice, not a constitutional right. There is no constitutional right to smoke. Individuals who use tobacco represent the minority group, however suggesting that individuals who make a choice to smoke are an oppressed minority group is not only an uninformed argument, but it can be offensive to truly oppressed, underrepresented and under-served groups. Tobacco use is a choice. A tobacco-free policy respects an individual’s right to use tobacco off campus and does not eliminate a person’s choice to use tobacco products; it would simply prohibit the use of these products on campus where they negatively affect members of the campus community.

The University’s aim to respect and protect students and employees through the establishment and enforcement of policies is long standing. Consider the University’s request that students and employees comply with drug and alcohol and firearm and weapons policies which are necessary to maintain order, protect people and property, and fulfill the purpose and responsibility of a university.


Firearms and Weapons Policy We have a constitutional right to bear arms under the 2nd Amendment of the United States; however individuals are not allowed to have firearms of any kind on University property as defined by Nebraska state statute (Section 28, Article 12). This prohibition applies to all members of the general public, students, and University employees, except University employees who are specifically so authorized as part of their job responsibilities and authorized law enforcement personnel performing official duties.

The University respects and protects the dignity, integrity, and reputation of all its students and employees. Students and employees must comply with the regulations of the University which are necessary to maintain order, protect people and property, and fulfill the purposes and responsibilities of a university. To those students who feel their Second Amendment right is being violated because of this policy, they should be made aware that students carrying concealed guns on campus would infringe on others’ right to feel safe on campus. There are a number of accidents and paranoia that could occur as a result of thousands of students potentially carrying a concealed gun onto campus, especially considering not all students have a complete understanding of the complexities of lawful use of a gun. There is undeniably the potential that a moment of irrationality could turn fatal — not to mention how that risk could increase with alcohol or other substances. Those factors are a lethal combination and threaten the well being of all.

Drinking alcohol is a personal choice, and one that is not illegal once the age of 21 is reached. However, Nebraska law forbids the consumption of alcohol on public property. University property, streets and sidewalks are considered to be public property. University policies forbid possession of alcohol on campus. According to the UNK Student handbook, any individual student [regardless of age] found to have committed or to have attempted to commit the following misconduct is subject to sanctions: Use, possession, distribution, public intoxication, or being in the presence of, alcoholic beverages except as expressly permitted by the law and University regulations. Academic institutions exist for the transmission of knowledge, the pursuit of truth, the development of students and the general well-being of society.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) is a community of scholars which values the freedoms of inquiry and expression. The University has the duty to protect these freedoms and furthermore has the responsibility to encourage all of its members to develop the capacity for critical judgment in their sustained and independent search for truth. Alcohol misuse and abuse may cause many physical and psychological health risks and the University must first consider the safety and well-being of all above one’s personal choice, as that choice could potentially infringe on the rest of our abilities to feel safe on campus.

For more information on UNK’s firearm and weapons and Drug and alcohol policy, visit: http://www.unk.edu/new2unk.aspx?id=9669 and http://www.unk.edu/administration/vcbf_policies.aspx?id=9670