Two N.C. Universities Consider ‘Tattling’ on Student Drinkers

An Alcohol Task Force at N.C. State University is sending a recommendation to Chancellor Marye Anne Fox that would have university officials notify the parents of students who commit two alcohol violations. The task force making that recommendation comprises students, faculty and staff.

According to Paul Cousins, director of the Office of Student Conduct at N.C. State, the recommendation would help dissuade illegal and dangerous drinking on campus. With the recommendation, Cousins said, the university was responding to the parents’ concern for the safety of the students and society’s decreasing tolerance for alcohol abuse. “The society is saying we want stronger measures in place to protect our children and make sure they don’t step on the wrong path in regards to alcohol and drugs,” Cousins said.

The proposal upset the editorial board of Technician, the daily student newspaper at N.C. State. The staff editorial on April 22 decried the recommendation, which it said “invades students’ rights.” “Students know that they are expected to abide by the Code of Student Conduct during their time at NCSU, which should go without saying,” the editorial read. “These same students, however, did not sign some “surrogate parent” policy that allows the university to tattle on them when they have misbehaved.”

The aim of the editorial was not to excuse underage drinkers who consume alcohol on campus, which it called “illegal and foolish”; instead it was to object to the possibility of the university to act “as an informant to the parents of these offenders.”

The goal of the recommendation is not to set up campus “beer police,” Cousins said. Instead, it is to answer what he called “a real call for a return to the in loco parentis model.”

“Parental notification is not a new thing,” Cousins said. “Private schools have been relying on it for years.”

A Similar Proposal at Appalachian State University also faces opposition from students. ASU’s Student Government Association will vote next Tuesday on a bill that would require the university to notify parents of a student’s second violation. According to The Appalachian, ASU’s student newspaper, the SGA “[does not] wish to see the stricter alcohol policy enforced but will support the policy [of] notifying parents of a second violation.”

According to the bill, “…students want parents involved in their life but also want the opportunity of making a mistake without their parents to watch over them.”

The proposals at NCSU and ASU are made possible by Congress’ reauthorization in 1998 of the Higher Education Act Amendments. The reauthorization amended the Buckley Law, also known as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, to allow universities to notify the parents or legal guardians of a student if the student is under age 21 and has been found by the university to have committed a drug or alcohol violation. The Warner Amendment, a subtext of the Higher Education Act, allows but does not require institutions to notify the parents or legal guardians of students under 21 who violate that institution’s alcohol or drug policies.