Notification proposal usurps students’ rights

The University’s Board of Regents is considering a proposal that would enforce notifying parents when their students violate alcohol and drug policies. The proposal is an attempt to reduce alcohol abuse by minors and to fully disclose a student’s behavior to parents. Although the policy would probably successfully reduce underage alcohol abuse, it would do so by abridging the rights of students who are independent adults. Another possibility exists that would preserve students’ independence, instead of granting parents such unrestricted access.
The policy was recently presented to the regents by the University Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs task force last week. The task force has informally recommended against the policy’s implementation, though the regents remain officially undecided. The policy was voted against by the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, as well as the Minnesota Student Association. The University’s current policy is to notify parents only when a violation develops into a life-threatening situation or threatens a minor’s health. Currently, three of the 11 Big Ten universities notify parents of infractions by minors.
There are several reasonable objections to the proposal. The most important is that almost all students are over the age of 18 and are legally considered independent adults. Although some University students receive financial support from their parents, many do not. Under the policy, even the parents of financially independent students would be informed of policy violations, though these students — as adults — prefer this information to remain private.
The proposal would also be inconsistent with other University — and even federal — policies. As legal adults, students can choose not to release their grades or other information relevant to their educations to parents. Parents cannot request to see this information from the school with or without a student’s consent. Although alcohol and drug abuse might justify a stricter policy because it is a more serious problem than a low GPA, the University has other methods to prevent and discourage it.
Although this policy would certainly assist in preventing underage students from abusing alcohol and drugs and grant concerned parents more information about their children, these objectives can be accomplished with other methods, the most unobjectionable of which would involve a contract signed by both the student and parents allowing the release of information regarding policy violations. Parents would obviously sign the contract if they were concerned about the behavior of their children, though many students might object to granting their parents such unrestricted access. However, children would be forced by their parents to sign the contract if they wished to receive any financial support.
Although independence is legally recognized at the age of 18, some students remain dependent on their parents for support, both financial and otherwise. The proposed policy assumes dependency of all students, while its absence assumes dependency of none. Instead of implementing this policy, the University should adopt this parent-student contract model. Only this method would successfully combine the absolute rights of adults with the unofficial rights of parents.