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Policy Violations




About a week ago I received a letter from my daughter’s college. She was called to the Dean’s office for having a couple of cases of beer in her room. I am shocked! I don’t know how to handle this.


Do the colleges inform parents about drinking violations? We get a different story from each campus we talk to.


My daughter got in trouble at her college because she drank too much. She says she is not going to stop drinking, but is going to be more careful. What can I tell her to help her avoid getting in trouble again?




How come the Dean at my college told my parents about my alcohol violation?


What happens if you get caught drinking at college? Do they call the police?



College is a place where students begin taking responsibility for their own actions. They face many challenges, including choices about alcohol consumption. You are no longer in a position to take responsibility for your child’s choices, but you can be responsible to your child. Making it clear that college will be a time for academic and personal growth is of utmost importance. Following an initial violation, it may be best for you to have minimal input and simply allow the campus officials or police to deal with the infraction. However, there may come a time when you will need to step into the process. How, when, and what that will look like should be discussed before a student leaves for college.



Impact of a Violation


Because purchasing and/or consuming alcohol on a college campus is illegal for anyone under twenty-one years of age, it is always a high-risk legal choice for someone under twenty-one to drink. In addition, students who drink heavily have a greater chance of causing property damage, committing vandalism, or engaging in other acts that result in a police record. An arrest record could severely impact certification, licensing, and future employment for a variety of professions. Many well-paying positions with excellent fringe benefits in federal and state government agencies require security background checks, and an arrest record might make a difference in whether an applicant is selected. It is also not unusual for a graduate school to contact an applicant’s undergraduate campus to see if there have been any conduct issues.



Dealing with a Violation


If your student is involved in an alcohol violation, treat it as an opportunity. You know your child best, but it would probably be most advantageous to avoid an explosive emotional reaction. Most campus judicial systems will sanction students for violations of campus alcohol policy. The sanctions may include participation in an educational program, a fine, and/or providing some community service. Further violations can result in required counseling, expulsion from the residence hall, and suspension from the college – with no refund, by the way! 


The incident may provide an opportunity for deeper, more meaningful discussions about alcohol. Resulting conversations about a variety of topics can help you get a sense of how your student is adapting to his or her new living conditions.


Set clear expectations that your student will focus on his or her academic work, and maintain reasonable balance regarding involvement in campus life and socializing.


Below are some topics and questions you may want to address with your child following a violation.


  • Express your concern and remind your son or daughter of your mutual expectations.

  • What else is going on in your life? (i.e. loneliness, depression)

  • What have you learned? 

  • What is being done as a result of the experience? What will be different in the future?

  • When appropriate, suggest taking advantage of the many campus resources that can help your child.


You might also take this opportunity to review with your child the Questionnaire: Identifying Alcohol Problems found in Appendix F.

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