Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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U. of Iowa curbs students’ rowdiness by writing family of under-21 drinkers

Increasing concern about disruptive behavior connected to alcohol abuse prompted the University of Iowa and other colleges to resort to sending letters to parents of students cited for underage drinking.

“We could have done it several years ago but decided not to,” said Phillip Jones, vice president of student services at Iowa.

Though underage drinking has always been a problem, recent violence at off-campus bars prompted the new notifications, Jones said.

Iowa began the notification process this fall. Jones said the letters are sent for incidents that occur off-campus. Although the university has no authority to discipline students in these incidents, it decided to notify parents so they can try to influence their child’s behavior.

Jones said more than 200 letters have been mailed since the beginning of fall semester.

According to Mary Desler, associate vice president for student affairs at Northwestern, NU does not mail letters to parents of students caught drinking underage. However, she said the university has always phoned parents when students’ behavior puts their health at risk.

“We have also been prompted recently by reports about the neighborhood situation to take a look at our alcohol policy,” Desler said, referring to Evanston residents’ complaints about off-campus student parties.

The Office of Student Affairs e-mailed all students Oct. 4 to inform them of regulations on off-campus parties. According to the e-mail, NU reserves the right to notify parents of students cited for violations against ordinances “regarding noise, alcohol, and illegal drugs.”

But Desler emphasized this measure will only be taken in extreme cases.

“Are we going to send out 50 letters on Monday morning? No,” she said.

Desler and Jones said amendments to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act made it easier for universities to notify parents of students cited for underage drinking. In 2000, Congress authorized universities to inform parents about incidents of illegal alcohol or drug use, even if the student does not consent to the disclosure.

Both Jones and Desler said most parents have been grateful to learn about their children’s actions and parental notification is a positive way to curb underage drinking.

“I would want to know that just as if (my son) were being disciplined for any other actions against the judicial code,” said Glenn Buterbaugh, whose son is a freshman at NU.

However, many students prefer their parents not discover if they have been caught drinking underage.

“I think it’s kind of dumb because if we can live on our own, we can decide how much we can drink,” said Weinberg senior Ted Riley.

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U. of Iowa curbs students’ rowdiness by writing family of under-21 drinkers