Every year, I think I get a little bit more excited about the return of students to the campus. As I write, it’s just about three weeks until school starts, and only two weeks until students start moving into the residence halls. We’re expecting our largest class of new students ever, and we’re ready for them. Most of them will be sampling a new kind of independence. A lot of our returning students will also be sampling a new kind of independence as they move into their own apartments for the first time.
This independence will mean making more choices and taking responsibility for those choices. Since 2009, we at the University of Iowa have been working very hard to shape the choices that students make about alcohol use, and we’ve had some real success. The number of students who have engaged in high risk drinking during the two weeks before our spring survey has dropped 23% since we created our first Alcohol Harm Reduction Plan.
You, as a parent, have had the opportunity to contribute to this progress. As much as it seems sometimes that our college-age students are asserting their independence, research shows that on a range of topics, including health and safety, they continue to value their parents’ advice. Speaking frankly with your student about your expectations really does help them stay safe and healthy.
At the University of Iowa, we have been more and more clear about our expectations. I expect students to observe the law and wait at least until they reach the minimum legal drinking age of 21 before they drink. That’s not because I’m a prohibitionist. It’s because I see, too often, the effects of students’ high-risk drinking on their health, on their academic performance, and ultimately on their futures. Frankly, it can be heartbreaking.
With all the progress we have made, we still haven’t beat the high-risk drinking problem here at the University of Iowa, any more than our peer institutions have beat it on their campuses. With your help, though, and our continuing efforts, we can help keep our students safer and healthier by encouraging them to avoid illegal and unsafe drinking.
I hope you had some time with your student this summer. This was my first summer without a child in school, and I missed seeing them.
As always, I welcome your comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each month Tom Rocklin addresses the parents and family members of current University of Iowa undergraduates in a column that is distributed in an email newsletter.