Should colleges call parents about drinking on campus?

As a parent of elementary school students I am very used to getting weekly, and regrettably sometimes even daily, reports about their behavior at school.

But what if you’re a parent of a college student? Do you want to know what trouble they’re getting into far away from home? Do you want a phone call or note from his/her dean?

Some colleges around the country have decided to take advantage of the helicopter parent mentality to help keep their young adults in check especially when it comes to alcohol.

The new trend at colleges, including the University of Georgia, is for parents to be notified if their underage child is caught drinking, drunk or in possession of alcohol.

According to The New York Times, the list of colleges include: George Washington University, M.I.T., the University of Kansas, the University of Maryland, University of New Mexico, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech.

“These schools have concluded that one thing students seem to fear as much as expulsion is being found out by their parents. The reporter Jenna Johnson writes:

Research shows that parents can have a significant influence on their children’s drinking habits.

‘Students are more concerned about their parents being notified than they are of the legal consequences,’ said Edward Spencer, vice president for student affairs at Virginia Tech.”

It is puzzling though that a college can’t legally tell you if your kid is passing chemistry (even if you’re footing the bill), but they’re more than happy to tell you they got drunk in their dorm Friday night.

How much do you want to know about your child’s behavior in college: They talked their way into a bar with a fake ID? They’re binge drinking at a fraternity? They’re smoking pot with their new dorm buddies? They’ve been sent to the emergency room with alcohol poisoning?

What line needs to be crossed before parents are notified? Is it good for colleges to notify parents about drinking or does the cord need to be cut when they head off freshmen year?

What would you do if you were notified? (I’m having a hard time finding punishments for my 6-year-old much less when he’s 18 and outside of spanking distance.)

226 comments Add your comment

motherjanegoose

March 8th, 2010
7:26 am

This is tricky.

I am just back from speaking at a college. The early childhood faculty there told me that the number of helicopter parents is getting worse and they are calling about their kid’s issues all the time.
To me, there is a difference between a child failing a class or doing something that is illegal such as drinking or drugs. I guess I am thinking that the parents will ultimately be the ones who will have to clean up the mess if the child gets in trouble with the law. If they get a bad grade, not so much.
You are not going to die from a bad grade. I shudder to think of the other endings. Our son had a friend die of drunk driving.

We spoke with parents of our son’s friends when they started driving and said, “we should try to keep an eye out for each other’s kids…now that they are out and about..” Mentioned in a casual way.
Reply, “Our kids do not get into trouble…” That is not what we heard later. All kids can get into trouble and (to me) knowing that folks are “keeping an eye out” can deter some of the trouble,

I will have another child heading off to college next year and it is scary when they leave your world.
While I know my children have made mistakes, they are both basically good kids and have never been consistently in trouble. My son had a few speeding tickets on the Oconee Connector and, I am told, this is a known speed trap. I showed my daughter where to SLOW DOWN.

I recall a family who walked in to hotel brunch ( in Phoenix) on a Sunday with the nicest child. A family near them had children who were running all over the place and did not appear to care….this was not Waffle House. I walked over the to couple whose son was displaying wonderful manners and said, ” my compliments to your son….he sure knows how to behave,”
The mother said, ” well, we decided long ago that if he was out of control in pre-school then would we want to give him our car keys when he was 16?” OUCH but true!

@ Tiger, I was reading a column ( last week) about only children and a point was brought up that only children tend to be brighter and more mature as the adults around them have more time to interact one on one. I thought of you and do agree that parents can pour more time into an only and thus they are rewarded, in the long run. This child at breakfast was an only and he was precious.

Jeff

March 8th, 2010
7:27 am

I’d like to be notified so I can chose whether or not, and how, to respond. If it’s happened 20 times their freshman year but I only know of 1 incident, that kinda changes things. Give me the info and let me decide for myself.

A

March 8th, 2010
7:44 am

On the other side of the argument, would any of you have wanted *your* parents to know about your extracurricular college activities? Probably not. I do think if your child is getting sent to the hospital to have their stomach pumped, or is caught doing something illegal, absolutely parents should be notified. But if it’s just the casual drinking we all did, I say let young adults be young adults and have those experiences and learn from them.

MomOf2Girls

March 8th, 2010
7:47 am

Mine aren’t college age, but I think I’d want to know if they got into trouble for something like this, only because I know from my college days that if you actually got caught at it, it was way more than just having fun.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

March 8th, 2010
7:47 am

A — but the the casual drinking is illegal if they are underage —- so do you want to know if they are just casually drinking??

Sarah H

March 8th, 2010
7:51 am

You have got to be kidding! College students are adults. If their mommies want to know what they are doing, let them stay home and go to a local junior college. Let them grow up!

motherjanegoose

March 8th, 2010
7:54 am

When your son tells you he has to attend a funeral for a fraternity brother…you do think that it could have been anyone’s son. The boy left a party drunk. He was in the hospital AFTER he was dead. I cannot imagine being in his parent’s shoes. My heart goes out to them.

motherjanegoose

March 8th, 2010
8:02 am

I am curious…please state if you are a parent when you make your point. If you are a student or young adult, you perhaps may have a different opinion? Maybe it is just me!

You are officially an adult when you are paying your own way…100%. Most 18 – 20 year olds, I know, are not. I was and adult at 18, as I did not have parents who helped with college ( at all) and I worked all the way through.

It seems, that if your parents are shoveling money in, they have more of a right to know you are not breaking the law. If they are not…then YES you are an adult.

lakerat

March 8th, 2010
8:05 am

This is probably should be a non-topic – the kids are 18(mostly) and can go to war and die, but cannot drink legally. That is fine, since it is a law. However, most of us know that most of our kids WILL PROBABLY be drinking once they get to college, yes, even though underage, and most have been drinking in HS – while I do not support the underage drinking, it happens and most parents know it.

Hence, what good will it do to call the parents – if the kid gets cited by police for underage drinking, the parents will probably know anyway. What use is there to “tell mommy and daddy”? What punishment is there to register? Talk about your helicopter parenting, now you have helicoptering everybody else…

Driving at age 16 and having parents look out for each others kids is definitely necessary – as one parent said to me back when my kids were that age, while you may not like Hillary Clinton’s politics, it DOES take a village to raise kids.

When my son was 18 and on a cruise with college kids, I mentioned on this blog how he was drinking while in ports in the Caribbean; someone asked if I punished him! Are you kidding me – drinking at age 18 is LEGAL in most countries in the world. The U.S. may be the only one in which it is not legal – and when I was 18 it was legal for beer and wine in NC where I went to college; and then, when I was still in college it bacame legal for 18 year olds to drink here in GA.

Hence, the question at hand is really a non-question, IMHO; you do the best you can in raising the kids to age 18 and then, when they get on their own you hope thay remember what you taught them, you pray daily for them, and then the rest is up to them. So, overbearing check-ups is NOT part of the equation, and will not really do any good since, as mentioned earlier, we KNOW that they will be doing “stuff” – you just hope they survive, just as you hoped they would survive HS and multitudes of other things that WE,as parents and educattors, CANNOT control. We survived – and most of them will, too. For those who do not, and those of you who have lost children to this problem, I am not unsympathetic to your loss – however, it was not your fault, and you did not fail them. Life is full of choices and consequences – and we deal with the hand we are dealt.

Photius

March 8th, 2010
8:18 am

You have got to be kidding me…. These Helicopter parents have degenerated into now this???? WTH are these parents raising for the future?

MomOf2Girls

March 8th, 2010
8:23 am

There’s a difference between wanting to know if your kid gets in trouble and intervening on their behalf to prevent them from suffering the consequences. I’d want to know, simply because if there is a recurring pattern, there’s a bigger issue than underage drinking at hand, and that is something I would want to get involved with. You do not abdicate all responsibility as a parent when your child turns 18, that merely means that he or she is considered an adult in the eyes of the law. I would never say to my child “sorry kid – you’re 18 now and not my problem”. I will say (and already do say) “you caused your problem, you will have to face the consequences, but I will be there for you and support you as much as I am able.”

motherjanegoose

March 8th, 2010
8:27 am

@ Photius…I know you are a parent.

Just curious, if your child was driving drunk in a car that you insured and sent them to college in, would you want to know? I am all for letting my children be independent. They take their own lumps when they make mistakes. I do not hover over my children and many of my friends tell me how responsible and independent my children are. I travel and they have to handle things for themselves. BUT when it is MY car and MY insurance…then, things could be different.

A friend of mine was telling me that when she went to school in Nebraska, the legal drinking age was 18 BUT hardly anyone had a car and if they fell into a ditch they would not be hurting anyone but themselves.

I completely see Lakerat’s point about 18 and going to war…this is something my husband has mentioned many times. You can get killed, in war, but not have a beer before you leave.

mom2alex&max

March 8th, 2010
8:30 am

MomOf2, that’s actually an interesting point.

I am far, far, far from a helicopter parent. However, I think I agree with you on that one. If they are in trouble with the law, I think I’d want to know. Failing chemistry? Well, even though I’ll probably will be footing the bill, I think they would have to solve than one on their own.

Becky

March 8th, 2010
8:33 am

Unless they are out driving while they are drinking, I think this is a non issue..Even then, unless you are going to make them move back home and change schools, what good is it to call the parents? As for kids 18 and over, I don’t see a problem with them drinking..

@Tiger..Ok, so what is your new moniker? I don’t have a computer at home,so I just now saw your post about a new name..Can’t wait to “hear” it..

A

March 8th, 2010
8:40 am

Well, I’m sure most of us who went to college were drinking while still underage, so no I wouldn’t need to know if my *adult* son is having the occasional beer when he is in college. I would hope his father and I will have taught him to be responsible with alcohol and demystify it enough over the 12 or so years he’ll still be living with us, so that when he does get to college he doesn’t go crazy and get into trouble.

As other posters have said, unless my son is drunk driving or doing something that puts him or others in danger, I don’t need to know about it. I would have been mortified if my parents knew every time I had a beer in college, and I would want my son to know we trust him to make good decisions. Easy for me to say since we have many years ’til we have to deal with this directly…maybe I’ll feel differently then!

QRS

March 8th, 2010
8:42 am

When I was in college, I never met a Dean. I was only on campus to take classes. I am not sure how any administrator from college would even know about my involvement in illicit activities.

I suppose if we are talking about kids living in dorms, they might know. But if you live 10 miles from campus and work on another side of town, how would they? I think I spent an average of 20 hours a week at campus, 20-30 hours at work.

Had I been arrested, I would have told my parents anyway. I wouldn’t have had any savings to bail myself out. I don’t know if they would have bailed me out, but with my one phone call, I would have at least asked.

lakerat

March 8th, 2010
8:47 am

Drinking and driving underage is a totally different animal – at that point you can take away the car keys and they are on their own transportation wise – when both my kids turned 21 we put the car titles of the cars they drove in THEIR names, at the address of the apt where they lived at school, and had them get their OWN insurance policies(it was actually cheaper than having them on our policy), totally separate from Mom and Dads.

We told them there was no way we were going to risk everything we had gained in our lives potentially due to a momentary lapse in judgement on their part regarding any alcohol related difficulties.

Annie

March 8th, 2010
8:51 am

MJG – so you condone your children speeding? You just point out where they should slow down? After all, speeding has been a cause for many a fatality wreck.

HB

March 8th, 2010
8:51 am

I’m not a parent, but I’m sure most parents would want to know — doesn’t mean they should be told by the school, though. They are adults and should be treated as such. If the situation calls for legal action, call the cops, not mommy and daddy. Then the young adult can decide if his/her phone call from jail is to parents. If you choose to provide the car and insurance, then absolutely you have the right to set rules for your child, but the university should not be in the business of reporting the student’s misdeeds to you. Same goes for bad grades. If as part of paying for your child’s education you want to require that they release their grades to you, that’s a reasonable policy in my opinion, and an issue to be handled between you and your child (ie, “show us your grades or we don’t pay”). The university itself should not be making the decision to call the parents of adult students, though.

motherjanegoose

March 8th, 2010
8:54 am

@ A…I did not drink in college. I also know ( from my son and others) what a nightmare it is at UGA and how kids are heaving everywhere and urinating in the elevators, as they are so drunk.

I appreciate that you mention your opinion and realize that it may change when your kids are older.
Just like my friend who went to college in Nebraska….there are different situations and one answer does not always work.

Outta here….I will check back in later….

Jeff

March 8th, 2010
8:54 am

What about when your child INEVITABLY asks you about your “experimentation” when you were younger? I think most of us grew up somewhere between the 60’s – 80’s and we did things that we are now not only saying they shouldn’t do, but potentially want the schools to take the responsiblity to inform us of. Kinda hard to take the moral high ground on this one. Where do you draw the line? Pre-marital sex, tattoos, piercings, group sex, drugs? I hear the young adults crying hypocrite already.

Hey, ORS...

March 8th, 2010
8:56 am

…it depends upon where you go to school – if you get arrested by campus cops at most state schools they HAVE to report alcohol related incidents to the local college’s dean of students. At most small, private schools the local small town police force have the same requirements.

But, I see your point if you go to Kennesaw State or GA State, and probably at Tech, too – if you live off campus and get a ticket for underage possession of alcohol or worse by the APD or Cobb County Police, how will the universities know? At UGA, both the campus police AND the Athens-Clarke County police HAVE to notify UGA of alcohol related arrests no matter what the age of the student.

So, Jeff...

March 8th, 2010
8:59 am

…what’s your point? Don’t you live by the “do as I say, not as I did”? Besides, in the 60’s – 80’s the drinking age was 18 (, there were

motherjanegoose

March 8th, 2010
8:59 am

NO, I do not condone speeding, for my children. I do drive 70 on I 85 here in Atlanta, when the traffic warrants it. I think the speed limit is 55 and you will get run over if you drive that slow. My point was: SLOW DOWN AND CRAWL HERE ( on the Oconee Connector) AS THEY ARE LOOKING FOR ANYONE WHO IS GOING 3 MILES OVER THE SPEED LIMIT. Sorry, I did not take the time to get that out in my last post. Are there any others out there who know about potential speed traps or am I the only one…..LOL.

Neal Boortz had an interesting take on how driving fast ( on the interstate) is NOT the cause of most of the wrecks out there…hmmmm.

So, Jeff...

March 8th, 2010
9:02 am

…oops – and, as I was trying to say, there were very few tattoos and body piercings (at least on most non-sailors) – and those, and the sex issue, are totally different questions since neither are illegal at the age of which we are talking.

Jeff

March 8th, 2010
9:05 am

My point is that our parents didn’t get the calls about our behavior when we went to college. Yes, we made mistakes, but that’s part of growing up. And yes, some people make mistakes they pay for forever. That’s also part of how life works. We can’t give them freedoms and remove the risks associated with those freedoms.

Alecia

March 8th, 2010
9:19 am

Are these colleges dividing the independent student from those on mommy and daddy’s dime? If an 18 yr old is an independent student and the college is not aware of the parents paying the tuition bill, then it is private business. The university could even be stepping on some legal privacy issues. My husband got his degree at 40. We are still receiving mail addressed to his parents, one of which is deceased.

QRS

March 8th, 2010
9:21 am

I have no problem admitting here that I am and will continue to be a total hypocrit when it comes to telling my kid about the things I did.

I did horrible things that should have killed me many times. I’m not about to start sharing those stories with him or anyone else for that matter.

I will share the stories of my friends who were killed and jailed for the same things. But I don’t want them to look at me and say, “Well he did all of this and is doing great now, so…”

Michelle

March 8th, 2010
9:27 am

I think the root of the question is more along the lines of “at what point” would you want to know about what your child is doing. I know the kids are going to drink at college. Heck, they drink now! As long as they are being responsible and making good choices, I don’t need to know about it. The minute they either drive or ride with someone who is impaired, yes, I’d like to know. If they are at an out of control party that gets “busted”, yes, I’d like to know. If it’s a few of the kids hanging out drinking, watching movies, I don’t need to know.

This is an opportunity for the kids to spread their wings and hopefully learn to make some of the better choices, or learn from their bad ones. I can only hope and pray that many of our words, etc. will come back to them when needed!

Jeff

March 8th, 2010
9:30 am

QRS, I agree. I may have overstated my case a bit. It IS my job to guide my child to adulthood, not be her best friend. But some of these parents who need to be there at every moment of decision are quite worrisome. I feel sorry for their kids, but it’s their kid.

karma

March 8th, 2010
9:46 am

My 3 kids are far from being angels, but I can honestly say, with 2 of the 3 now in college, I have never recieved a report of bad behavior from any of their schools, from kindergarten up. If I received daily, or even weekly, reports regarding my kids behavior I think I’d stop worrying about which “mom” phone to buy, or a kitchen remodel, or how to make valentine whatevers for the entire class and focus on my kids behavior. just sayin.

Sarah H

March 8th, 2010
9:52 am

MJG – were you asking if I were a parent or a kid? If so, I am a 59 year-old retired school teacher. I have 2 grown kids and 4 grandkids. My views may be tainted by all the helicopter parents I had to deal with as a teacher.

Cammi317

March 8th, 2010
9:53 am

I am conflicted on this one. My daughter is 12, so I have a little while to think about it. I began and stopped drinking my freshman year in college. I was barely 17 when I went away to school and although it was 1989, I partied like it was 1999. My parents were very protective, so when I went away I broke loose. I received more than one warning from the dorm director that he was going to call my parents. I was raped in October after a fraternity party one night and did not report it because I did not want my parents to know that I had been drinking. I only told a my roommate and a couple of my pledge sisters. You would think that after that incident I would have stopped drinking, but I didn’t. I stopped hanging out with the Greeks and found a new crowd to party with. One night in February I got so drunk that I seriously believed that I was going to die. I was probably a sip away from an alcohol induced coma, barely functioning. I turned 18 in March and my friends threw a big party for me. I was the only one at my party that was not drinking. The smell of alcohol made me sick for the next several years. I learned a hard lesson, but a lot of what I went through could have been avoided if my dorm director had followed through with his threats. However, my parents probably would have snatched me out of school.

Because of her late birthday, my daughter will turn 19 by the end of her first semester of college. She will be a lot older than I was and hopefully a lot more mature. I want her to have the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. I would like to believe that she will make better decisions than I did. She already knows my story because she overheard me finally telling my father about 4 years ago, and later asked me about it.

JATL

March 8th, 2010
9:59 am

Theresa, can you find my comment? I posted it about an hour ago, but it appears to be lost!

QRS

March 8th, 2010
10:02 am

Yeah, my kid is still in elementary school but so far I have never received a troubling report of his behavior.

Tiger needs me on his PR team

March 8th, 2010
10:59 am

My kid is 6 so I’ve got a while until he’s in college. But I think if I got the call from his school that he was caught drinking, my response would be somewhere along the lines of “tell me something I don’t know!” I’m just assuming that he is going to do what I did, and his mother did, and every buddy I had in college did. As for myself, I’ll be looking for the other tell tale signs that he’s in over his head. Bad grades, trouble with the law, unexplained changes in personality…stuff like that seems more indicative of whether a problem exists than a call from the University telling me they caught him very drunk doing body shots off a half naked co-ed at a kegger. Ahhhh….college..those were the days.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

March 8th, 2010
11:01 am

By the way folks….since Tiger’s perfect apology speeach, I’ve decided from here on out Tiger DOESN’T need me on his PR team, so I’m retiring my PR name and giving homage to some of the more memorable name changes in recent history.

Becky

March 8th, 2010
11:02 am

@Tiger..So what is your new name??

Alch

March 8th, 2010
11:05 am

I’m pretty sure that the institutions will notify parents as a way to protect themselves from legal action. I agree that the student should be the one to notify the parents, but rest assured, the black-hawk parents will blame the institution for not notifying them. I am pretty sure some must have threatened to sue, thus the new policy. Trust me!

TT

March 8th, 2010
11:05 am

Forget about reporting it to parents. I think any respectable college should expel the students for such behavior. But, of course, because education is based on money, schools will do anything to have their 40K a year payment.
My kids know that any illegal activity or anything lower than B will result in them having 2 jobs and fully supporting themselves. It is up to them to choose which route to go.

Mattie

March 8th, 2010
11:07 am

Yes, I want to know. We have made the commitment to pay for the college education for three sons, and in return we want good grades, and responsible behavior.

We have already paid the price once for underage drinking. Middle son was cited last summer. He hadn’t been drinking (but only because he had just arrived). That little incident cost us $2500. in fines. He is away at school now, and this past fall, while at an off campus party, the entire group was robbed as they slept off the beer. Somebody came in and took all the cell phones, wallets, laptops, etc. Another expensive lesson.

Oldest lived on campus all 4 years, and never got more than a ticket for a missing taillight. Now middle wants to live off campus next year, and we have serious reservations about it. His school has a 3 strikes and you’re out policy. I’m thinking drinking on campus is a strike, but off campus could result in an arrest.

I recently read where the cost of a DUI is about $20,000 (fines, lawyer, insurance surcharges), and that figure does not include loss of employment. I keep hammering that number into middle’s head as he goes off for spring break next week. We have also told him if he gets arrested for underage drinking, we will not be the kind of parents who shrug it off. He will lose his right to be away at school, and come home to enroll locally.

What really bothers me are the parents who allow drinking at the high school parties here in No. Fulton. It is rampant. I can guarantee you that if your child is going to a party, and sleeping over afterwards, it is because there is drinking going on. Parents think because they take the car keys and keep the kids off the roads, no harm is done.

Just because people don’t agree with the drinking age, doesn’t make it any less of a crime to allow it.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

March 8th, 2010
11:09 am

@TT…that’s pretty hardcore….which is completely understandable. Is there any wiggle room in your “any illegal activity” directive? If they get a speeding ticket doing 35 in a 25 zone are they cut off?

TT

March 8th, 2010
11:22 am

Hi Tiger – it depends. If they are 16 and on our insurance, you can bet that drivers license would be taken away until my child can pay to reinstate it and pay for car insurance. If he is over 18, has driving experience and pays fo his own car insurance, then i have nothing to say.

I consider to be a nice and hardworking parent. I try to give my kids all priviledges in life that neither i or my parents had – cars at 16, tuition paid, nice clothes, spending money. I understand college kids drink, but they must know the limits. If he drinks his way to ER while under my roof and financial support, there will be no mercy, i can quarantee it.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

March 8th, 2010
11:26 am

@TT..good for you..I like it!

TT

March 8th, 2010
11:41 am

Tiger – it works wonders if you enforce it. Our oldest was driving at night, did not stop at the stop sign (just because friends told him – let’s see if we can make left turn at 40 mph) , lost control of the car and drove onto the sidewalk. Drivers license was taken away and the boy spent 4 years working for landscaping company so he can save 2K to buy his own car. It was a pain in the *ss
for us to drive him everywhere, but that is a small price for us. I don;t think he realized what driving responsibility is until he had to sweat for it.

After that 2 younger kids had no driving problems.

Really?

March 8th, 2010
11:44 am

Why call parents when they go to college and get drunk, not like you will do any thing now.. You sure the heck did not make them tow the line as a child

RJ

March 8th, 2010
11:47 am

The reality is that kids will make mistakes while growing up. They’ll make some of the same mistakes we made. I have a teenager and I realize that when she goes off to college she will probably drink before she’s 21. We talk about underaged drinking now and what could happen. I don’t think I need to know if she sits in her dorm room and decides to drink. The only time I would expect communication is if she were driving or putting herself in dangerous situations.

I am sorry

March 8th, 2010
11:48 am

but an 18 – 21 year old is not an adult and it is against the law to drink. It is one thing to let them grow up its not ok to let them break the law as a minor

Sarah H

March 8th, 2010
11:51 am

@Sorry – 18 year-olds in Georgia may not be able to drink but they are legally adults.

Uh huh

March 8th, 2010
11:56 am

there is a big difference of being a young adult and being mature…. its so funny to see these parents now saying… well it did not kill me so it wont kill my kid…..