For many young adults, going away to college spells FREEDOM with a capital ‘F’. However, in the words of the wise Eleanor Roosevelt, “with freedom comes responsibility”.
It’s no secret that college campuses, some more than others, have a reputation for wild parties where alcohol and/or drugs are rampant. Are freshmen in college, as young as seventeen in some cases, mature enough to make adult decisions when it comes to alcohol consumption and drug use in college?
According to a recent study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “about 1,200 underage students a day try alcohol for the first time while in college.” Having just reached a new level of independence but lacking in life experience, it’s not surprising that some young students find themselves in trouble with their educational institution or even with the law.
The University of Michigan Takes Action
The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is aware of the risks associated with alcohol and drug use- especially for incoming freshman and is enforcing a parental notification policy to address the issue:
“Alcohol and other drug-related harm continue to be the top public health issue on campus. It is our goal to create a culture of health and wellness so that all students can thrive. According to the University of Michigan website, because of the health and safety risk inherent in alcohol and other drug misuse, UM will notify parents/family of first-year students under the age of 21 if:
- A student has committed a violation accompanied by other serious behavior such as needing medical attention, significant property damage or driving under the influence.
- A student has had a second alcohol or drug violation.”
Is ‘Tattling’ an Effective Means of Deterring Behavior?
According to teen and adolescent psychologist Barbara Greenburg, “The idea is that having only recently left home, kids are still pretty attached to their parents at this time in their lives and are more worried about disappointing their parents than they are with making them angry.”
Greenburg is confident that students will think twice about engaging in drug or alcohol related destructive behavior if they know their parents will be contacted as a result.
Should Institutions Get Involved?
The idea of ‘policing’ college students, as some might view the practice of notifying parents when their student has ‘overdone it’ has actually been legal for universities to do for over 30 years. However, it’s a right that few colleges and universities have exercised.
Many institutions expect students to make informed, responsible choices and are reluctant to enforce this type of disciplinary action.
The question is, is it realistic to expect young people to go from teenagers living under their parent’s jurisdiction with little real-life experience to responsible adults capable of making mature decisions in the three months between high school graduation and the start of fall semester?
Most experts would agree achieving maturity takes time, life experience and, very often, living with the consequences of our choices. Although these new regulations may not be popular with the students they are intended to protect, they give parents a degree of reassurance that there is some type of safety net should their son or daughter get off-course before serious ramifications like addiction and/or legal trouble come into play.
Live and Learn?
What’s your opinion on the University of Michigan’s resolve to notify parents if their child repeatedly makes poor choices when it comes to alcohol and drug use?
Should universities take action with a drinking and drug policy or should college students be permitted to make their own mistakes and learn from them?
If your child has been charged with a DUI or OWI, please contact my office. Charges like these may result in long-term consequences and we are ready to stand alongside you during this vulnerable time.
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