Parents study student drinking habits in course

Tom Moran

While students have had privacy being away from their parents this fall, some mothers and fathers have started studying their children’s drinking habits.

A free online course, “Seminar for Parents: Alcohol Use on Campus,” opened to all parents this semester after being limited to just parents of first-year students since its inception in 2005.

The class is designed to inform parents about the college drinking scenes both nationally and locally, and help parents develop talking points about the issue, to discuss it with their children. The course is the first of its kind on campus and across the country.

Marjorie Savage, a class instructor and adviser to the Minnesota Daily Board of Directors, said enrollment was broadened because many parents of first-year students assume their children do not yet drink, so they did not take the course. Jodi Dworkin, another class instructor, said enrollment has reached about 300 parents this semester.

The course details the University’s policies toward alcohol consumption, provides research data about college student drinking trends, outlines parents’ and students’ attitudes toward drinking and explains the consequences of high-risk drinking, which is consuming five or more alcoholic beverages in one sitting.

“Our goal is to bring parents in as partners, talking with students about alcohol use and abuse,” Dworkin said.

Chris Dellwo, a computer science senior, said he thinks the classes would be a good idea for uninformed parents. He said he has seen a lot of students make bad decisions about drinking that go against common sense.

Dellwo said he has an open relationship about drinking with his parents and he thinks it has made him more responsible.

He has never had any negative consequences while drinking but would still talk with his parents about drinking if he did, he said.

Dellwo said the course might be beneficial but there is only so much the University can do about drinking on campus.

“College kids are college kids, and there’s nothing you’re going to do about it,” he said.

Savage said an important part of the course teaches parents about Minnesota alcohol laws, which differ from other states’ laws.

Mark Karon, director of University Student Legal Services, said the organization sees many students for drinking-related violations. He estimated between 200 and 300 students come to legal services each year.

He said students often know about underage drinking laws but are not as knowledgeable about more serious offenses.

“Very few really understand the consequences that are involved in providing alcohol to minors,” he said.

Karon said he sees parental involvement when students fall into legal trouble. He said he thinks it’s positive for students if their parents are involved – and the courts are happy to see parents there.

The course has inspired several other comparable classes as well. Savage said there are currently classes for parents that cover student finances, career planning, mental health and sexual health.

Other schools have asked for the University’s help in constructing similar classes for their campus, according to a University news release.