Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Alcohol policy has DU students fessing up to their parents

Students who don’t think before they drink — and get caught — are tasting a new shot of reality that may bring as big a headache as a longshoreman’s hangover. 

Under a program that started with the new school year, first-offense alcohol violators must fess up to their parents that they were busted. In the past, a student had a reprieve until he or she faced a second violation or went on probation. 

Under the new practice, parents are informed in a brief notice from the University and again in a letter students are required to write themselves. 

Further, offending students will have to complete an alcohol education class called Spin the Bottle, then write a 500-word essay on what they learned. The class takes three hours and costs $50. 

“It’s like a fine,” says Spin the Bottle teacher Katie Dunker, health promotion coordinator at the Health and Counseling Center. “A lot of schools are way more expensive than this.” 

That may be small consolation to students fearful of how their parents will react, though University officials say they’ll let the disclosure rule slide for “compelling reasons.” 

The rule, depending on the circumstance, might even apply to students who are of legal age. For example, a 21-year-old who is caught supplying alcohol to an underage roommate may be required to notify his parents. 

In any event, the Office of Citizenship and Community Standards makes the final determination and can waive the notification rule for any reason. 

Last academic year, 300 students faced alcohol viola-ions, so Citizenship Director Dan Kast predicts the fall quarter could see as many as 150 people taking Spin the Bottle. Dunker is more optimistic, predicting about 130 and insisting the class is valuable even without a captive audience. 

“I’m not the punishment, I’m the opportunity,” she says. 

It gives students a chance to talk, learn and correct misperceptions about drinking, she says. 

“A lot of students are trying to keep up with their parents’ stories,” Dunker says, when they ought to be “sharing secrets for staying safe.”

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