Any time is a good time for parents to talk with their student about alcohol.
Popular culture and peers assail students with messages encouraging them to drink – sometimes in excessive amounts. These messages create inaccurate perceptions that all college students drink. In a recent study, we found the following:
- Only 63% of our students (compared to 67% nationally) drank any alcohol at all during the previous month.
- 21% of our students (19% nationally) reported abstinence from alcohol.
- The perception, however, was that 96% of UMW students (94% nationally) consumed alcohol at least once during that same period.
- Another perception is that 37% (41% nationally) had done so at least ten times. (In reality, only 9% of our students—14% nationally—had used it that often.)
Clearly, perception is not reality.
What are the consequences of drinking on campus?
Most of our students, regardless of their age, drink responsibly. Most on-campus violations do not result in arrest. Instead, many students suspected of using or possessing alcohol underage are referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Responsibility (OSCAR) and attend a hearing with an administrator. This process is educational and supportive, but we believe that accountability is important! Students found in violation are typically asked to complete, at a minimum, an online alcohol education course. If the student is part of an athletic team, additional sanctions may apply.
Many students attend parties off campus where alcohol may be present. Students (and parents) should be aware that Fredericksburg Police can and do arrest students for underage possession of alcohol or public intoxication. When this happens, OSCAR is notified, and those students are held accountable for their actions just as if the incident had occurred on campus. Additionally, when students are cited or arrested off campus, they are subject to criminal proceedings.
Physical assaults and injuries are uncommon at UMW, but when they occur, alcohol often is an underlying factor. Also, alcohol affects academic performance; the more a student drinks, the lower their GPA is likely to be.
How can a parent or family member help?
One way to reduce the risk of negative outcomes is to reduce alcohol use. Parents can facilitate their student’s academic and personal success at UMW by telling them that they do not condone underage drinking. We notify parents about serious or repeated alcohol violations (as long as the student is under 21), but we encourage parents to be proactive, and to talk to their student about alcohol often—even after they turn 21.
If you have questions about our policies, our procedures, or concerns about your student’s use of alcohol, please contact Dr. Ray Tuttle, Director of OSCAR, at 540/654-1660 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has a Fact Sheet for parents, and the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has prepared a downloadable Parents Guide. Finally, the Century Council has provided some excellent tips for how to start a conversation with your student about alcohol.
Ray Tuttle, Director of OSCAR