A new parental notification policy announced this week by Kansas University is a common-sense step toward dealing with drug and alcohol abuse among KU students.
In response to federal laws concerning student privacy, KU officials had stopped releasing information to parents even about serious student infractions. Following the recent deaths of two KU students in incidents involving alcohol use, university officials decided to revisit that policy.
Federal laws give universities some leeway to inform parents about matters of health and safety without the written consent of the student. Officials have decided to make use of that leeway by rewriting their policy to allow the university to notify parents and legal guardians of serious drug and alcohol infractions by students under the age of 21.
Those include a violation of any drug law or university drug policy, the cancellation of a housing contract because of drug or alcohol violations and incidents in which a student endangers his or her own health or the health of others through the use of alcohol or drugs.
The policy is not a cure-all and it won’t guarantee that more serious incidents don’t occur, but it will give parents a chance to get involved. University officials correctly contend that even though students over 18 are legally adults, their parents still exercise considerable influence over them. Jay Wren, for one, would have liked to hear from the university about a drinking problem that resulted in his son, Jason, being kicked out of a university hall just weeks before he was found dead on March 8 at a KU fraternity after a night of heavy drinking.
The policy won’t remedy every situation. For instance, it can only be enforced on campus property, although KU officials say they will work with off-campus living groups. It is a step, but only a first step, to address a binge drinking problem that a recent review by the KU student newspaper concluded is far worse at KU than at many other comparable universities.
Predictably, some students have reacted to the policy by saying it infringes on their privacy and that college is a time to “learn to be responsible without your parents’ supervision.”
To an extent, that certainly is true, but too many students are making less-than-responsible “adult” decisions about alcohol and drug consumption. In extreme cases, in which they may endanger themselves or others, a little parental communication and guidance might come in handy — or even save a life.
Students still will have plenty of opportunity to make decisions — both good and bad — but this policy is a reasonable way to try to mitigate a serious problem on the KU campus.