New alcohol policy is bogus

If you kids drink one more beer, I’m going to tell your father when he gets home.

That’s the new message from the Department of Residence Services, which plans to notify parents when underage students are caught violating university drinking policies in the residence halls. Residents were informed of the new hall rules via e-mail Thursday.

You would think that once you reach age 18, your parents have no business finding out what you, an adult, are up to.

You would be wrong. The University Policy Register states that parents who can demonstrate their student is still a dependent can have access to records, as long as the student is informed first. That could mean your grades, what classes you’re taking or what your financial aid package includes.

You might also think that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act gives you power over your records once you turn 18. But there’s a tricky clause in FERPA specifically regarding alcohol and drug use. Legislators included a section that allows schools to inform parents about violation of federal, state or local laws or university regulations governing alcohol or other controlled substance use.

That’s right – lawmakers wanted to be sure underage drinkers could be ratted out by school administrators. And here at Kent State, Judicial Affairs’ long-standing policy has been to notify parents in instances of serious underage alcohol violations.

So is there reason to be outraged over the latest announcement from Residence Services? You bet there is.

The e-mail from Director Betsy Joseph states this notification will be in addition to other action regarding alcohol violations, including “completing a behavioral contract with your residence hall director, attending an alcohol workshop, and/or a referral to Judicial Affairs.”

So wait – your parents might be informed before you are given the opportunity for the due process provided by Judicial Affairs? This new policy dumps the concept of a presumption of innocence and the idea that you have a right to defend yourself before receiving your punishment.

Joseph’s e-mail states that the purpose of the new rule is to ensure the success of students at the university. It’s an admirable goal.

But underage drinking at college is a fact. It’s also a rite of passage. And while it’s worth it to help students who have serious problems with their alcohol use, squealing on a 20-year-old junior who gets caught with a beer in her hand based solely on the word of a resident assistant is simply unacceptable.

We’ve all hit age 18. We’re all adults. And we have a right to the privacy of information about us. Judicial Affairs hearings are not a matter of public record – and neither are resident assistant reports.

Even though federal law allows these disclosures to parents, university policy should not.

We’re outraged. You should be too.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.