University of Minnesota Mulls Action 

University of Minnesota Mulls Action 
Posted by FoM on February 10, 2000 at 21:32:26 PT
By Mary Jane Smetanka, Star Tribune
Source: Star Tribune
If an 18-year-old University of Minnesota freshman is caught with a can of beer in a residence hall, should her parents be called? What about a 19-year-old who uses a false I.D. to buy and bring a bottle of vodka back to campus, or a 20-year-old who drinks so much that he passes out in the snow on Northrop Mall?
A parent's response might be yes, yes and yes, but a university task force on alcohol and drugs isn't finding the answers so easy, officials told a Board of Regents committee Thursday.Until this year, federal law prohibited universities from sharing information about student drug and alcohol violations with parents unless their children OK'd it. The exception was if students had what doctors or university officials judged a life-threatening clash with alcohol or drugs, such as a trip to the emergency room or repeated visits to detox.But the federal law changed in 1998. Colleges and universities around the nation are updating their policies about alcohol and drug use on campus, and Minnesota regents are expected to vote on a rule sometime this summer.In the Big Ten, there's no obvious pattern. Penn State University, Indiana University and the University of Iowa -- institutions that had incidents involving serious alcohol abuse in recent years, including students who died -- have opted for parent notification. Choosing not to notify parents are the University of Wisconsin, Northwestern University, Michigan State University and Purdue University.Minnesota is undecided so far. That doesn't mean there aren't opinions.'The security that people are watching' On Thursday, Regent Michael O'Keefe mused that such a policy is "bedeviled by the idea that the nation doesn't have a clear idea of when you become an adult." Said Regent William Hogan, "You can drive at 16 and drink at 21, but you can also die at 18." Regent Bryan Neel said he thought it would be "a splendid thing" for parents to know their children are leaving home for an institution that cares enough to provide "the security that people are watching."Not so fast, said student representative Piyali Nath Dalal. The university's student government body, the Minnesota Student Association, voted to stick to current policy: no notification, unless students endanger themselves."My concern is, what kind of relationship does the university want to have with its students?" she asked. "Especially when students are paying their own way in school, they really do deserve to be treated as adults."The university doesn't know what kind of relationships students have with their parents, Dalal said. It doesn't know if parents have their own drug abuse problems or whether students are even in contact with their parents.Underage drinking is an issue especially in all-freshman residence halls. Dalal suggested increasing mentoring programs so teenagers who are free of parental supervision for the first time have role models in older students who use alcohol responsibly.A 1998 survey shows that almost 77 percent of 18-to 24-year-olds at the university used alcohol in the past 30 days, and about 36 percent had five or more drinks at one sitting during the previous two weeks. Those numbers are roughly in line with national averages.Tough Questions, No Easy Answers: Ed Ehlinger is director of the university's Boynton Health Service. He said his impulses as a parent push him in one direction, but his knowledge of how difficult it can be to administer policy pulls him in another."There's no easy, clear-cut answer," he said. "I think it's going to be really, really tough."The problem, he said, is that "anyone over 18 is treated as an adult. Should we set a different standard for students [under the legal drinking age] of 21?"If so, Ehlinger sees a series of hard-to-answer questions: At what level is alcohol use significant: one beer, or two, or a visit to detox, or an emergency room visit? Who qualifies as a parent? If parents are separated, which parent is contacted? And will such a policy deter students from risky behavior such as binge drinking, which often starts in high school?"We don't know," he said.Realistically, any new policy would only affect students in residence halls, because students who live off-campus or in fraternity housing are outside of university jurisdiction, officials said. All campuses of the university have residence halls with sections designated as chemical-free.Under present policy, the university reports perhaps six incidents of dangerous use of alcohol or drugs to parents each year, officials said. Parents aren't always pleased at being contacted."I hear both 'Thank you' and 'Why bother me?' " said Ehlinger.The 25-member task force is expected to bring a policy to the board for discussion in April, with a vote this summer.-- Staff writer Mary Jane Smetanka can be contacted at smetan startribune.comPublished Friday, February 11, 2000  Copyright 2000 Star TribuneCannabisNews Articles On Student Aid Policy:
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