April 2, 2001

Board approves notification policy

by Josh Renaud
senior editor

After spirited discussion, the University of Missouri Board of Curators voted 6-3 to approve a parental notification policy at its meeting March 22.

The idea of parental notification has met with some student opposition on all four UM campuses. The UMSL SGA Assembly recently passed a resolution urging administrators to consider other alternatives.

The policy was developed by a committee of administrators and students, headed by Stephen Lehmkuhle, UM System vice president for Academic Affairs. It allows the UM campuses to notify parents of underage students after their child commits a "severe" initial violation of the student conduct code concerning alcohol and controlled substances, or after subsequent violations.

Students will be given a 48-hour period to notify their parents on their own, if they wish, before the University notifies them with a letter. The policy prevents the University from discussing with parents details of an incident without the student's consent.

Gary Grace, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, said the Board encouraged administrators not to use the policy as a punitive measure, but as a way to encourage good communication.

"They wanted us to encourage these issues before [students] come to college," he said.

To accomplish that, campuses will send materials to parents of students aged 18-21 and encourage them to discuss the consequences of drinking and drug use with their children. Parents will be presented with the conditions of parental notification and given a choice not to participate in the program.

The policy also includes provisions to exempt students who are married or can demonstrate financial independence from their parents. The University can also choose to exempt students if it receives written recommendation from a health care provider that notification wouldn't be in the students' interest.

"The final version is about as good a compromise as the students are going to get, at least those of us who are against it," said Joe Flees, an UMSL student and member of the Associated Students of the University of Missouri. "Some of the [exemptions] were things that we had suggested and that they worked on. So there was some compromise."

The policy will take effect August 6, and already UMSL is preparing for it, though it isn't expected to be used much on this campus.

"That's just the nature of having an older student body," Grace said. "We went ahead and started to order some of the material [March 23] because we have to get it ready for the summer."

Flees said that ASUM would continue supporting proposed state legislation that would keep UM from implementing a parental notification policy.

"I'm not sure how much effort we'll put into it," Flees said, "because usually the legislators will go on the Curators' recommendations or their policies.

"Obviously we were disappointed by the overall decision, but the Curators did what was best and now we have to respect their wishes. We'll see how it works out."

Grace said he enjoyed the discussion at the Board of Curators meeting and the Academic Affairs Committee meeting beforehand.

"It was one of the best discussions of a very controversial issue that I've seen in a long time," he said. "Regardless of what side [they represented], I was proud of the way the students were organized and how eloquent they were."

This article was reprinted with permission from The Current.

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