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VT notifying parents on alcohol violations

Starting this semester, Virginia Tech will notify parents anytime a student under 21 is disciplined for drug or alcohol-related violations. Previously, letters were sent home if a student had a serious offense, such as drunk driving or being hospitalized with alcohol poisoning, or after two minor offenses, such as being caught with a beer in the dorms.

For years, the university has operated a "three strikes" system for these violations: Two strikes for major offenses and one strike for minor ones. If a student racks up three strikes while attending Va. Tech, they have to leave the school for at least one semester.

Under the old system of notification, several parents complained that they were caught off guard when their child had a major offense and automatically was kicked out of school because there had been a minor offense years earlier that they did not know about.

"Over the years, parents have gotten more involved," said Edward Spencer, vice president for student affairs. "It's just easier to say that we're going to notify for all alcohol violations."

The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prevents universities from sharing most student information, but there is an exception for drug and alcohol violations for students under 21. Each campus can decide when and if they notify parents, Spencer said.

The strike system and notification process are just a few things the university is doing to curb underage drinking and binge drinking, Spencer said. Often, students are more worried about how their parents might react to news that they were caught drinking than they are about facing the legal consequences.

The local police notify the university whenever a student gets into trouble, Spencer said, and students will routinely tell officers: "You're not going to tell the university, are you? Because they are going to tell my parents. My parents can't find out."

Response to the new rule is as would be expected, Spencer said: Parents have called to thank him and wax about how they are in a partnership. Students complain that this is an invasion of their privacy.

Student body president Brandon Carroll said students were "shocked" when they heard about the new rule, because the administration never got their opinion on it. Carroll, who is over 21, said he pays for college himself and doesn't feel that it's right for the university to share information with his parents without his permission.

Underage drinking is common on campus and notifying parents that their student has been caught "could put a lot of pressure on them," he said. "I think it's their hope that this will stop binge drinking. Binge drinking is an issue. Will this stop it? I don't know. I really don't know."

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By Jenna Johnson  |  February 2, 2010; 5:15 PM ET
 | Tags: Alcohol, VA Tech  
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Virginia Tech has a MAJOR drinking problem (and I do mean major!). Off campus drinking parties are the norm among students, and the main streets of Blacksburg (the surrounding town) are no where to be most weekends, due to the intoxicated students running around.

Blacksburg "the special place" as well as Virginia Tech administration continue to pretty much ignore the problem. They have some sort of alcohol complaint hotline, but no one actually goes out and investigates the complaints (and the parties) as they occur.

I moved out of Blacksburg for exactly these reasons. The main problem is that Tech doesn't want to actually do anything about the problem and risk upsetting Alumni or tip the apple cart of dollars that comes in around their football program (and the tailgating parties that it involves).

Posted by: SMULDERRY | February 3, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

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