Drink and Tell

April 22nd, 2010 by Kathy McManus

Should colleges and universities notify parents when students drink?

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The Responsibility Project

The Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson reports that “a growing list of colleges” now notify parents “every time a student younger than 21 is caught drinking, drunk, or in possession of alcohol.” School administrators, Johnson writes, “have realized that in addition to levying official penalties, seeking parents’ help can bolster anti-drinking efforts. Research shows that parents can have a significant influence on their children’s drinking habits.”

But not all students support the drink-and-tell policies. When Virginia Tech beefed up its alcohol sanctions to include parental notification, students were “shocked,” said 21-year-old student body president Brandon Carroll. “If the school calls someone’s parent, that could put a lot of pressure on them. And how is that going to help?” he asked.

College administrators acknowledge that there’s a fine line between “honoring parents’ demands for information” and fostering student independence. But the bigger question, said one university student director, concerns the definition of adulthood. “There is no magical line between May of their senior year of high school and college,” said John Zacker, director of student conduct at the University of Maryland, which notifies parents when a student’s drinking threatens to get him or her kicked out of the dorms or school. “When do they really become a responsible adult?”