With the recent news about the Commission on Student Affairs threatening to withhold funding to the Collegiate Times and the other organizations affiliated with EMCVT, I find it is necessary for Virginia Tech students, faculty, and staff to engage in a debate about our university and the constitutionality of its policies.
Recently, as many of you may have noticed, especially if you live on campus, the alcohol policy has changed here at Tech. Under the old policy, if students under the age of 21 had an alcohol violation with Tech or the law, their parents were not notified. Now, if any alcohol policy is violated and the student is under 21, Tech is allowed to notify his parents without his permission. This is even allowed if the student is over the age of 18 and a legal adult. The university said that it approved this policy “in the hopes that parents/guardians can, if they chose, engage their students in a discussion about their misconduct prior to the imposition of a more serious sanction.”
However, if one is an adult this should not be allowed. Citizens of the United States over the age of 18 are allowed the constitutional right to privacy, unless they give permission otherwise. Neither I nor anyone else I know gave explicit permission for Tech to notify my parents if I violate the alcohol policy. I am aware that I have signed the handbook and told Tech that I realize what the university policy is, but that does not mean that I agree with it, or that it is legal.
I think it is very important that parents are involved in the life of the students while they are in college; however, it is not right of the university to force this upon families. It should be the responsibility of the student, as an adult, to have to tell his parents what he has done and the subsequent punishment for such actions. If he chooses not to, then it is his responsibility to take whatever comes from his actions. If one gets into further trouble, then he has to again take personal responsibility for what they have done. A university cannot force responsibility onto its students or his parents. And, if one is over 18, then they should expect the right to privacy no matter where he is, no matter what he does.
Another matter of Tech policy that needs to be discussed is a section of the Student Code of Conduct. Under section 8, if one must present an identification card at the request of “staff members from the: Athletics, bookstore, dining halls, Police Officers, cadet officers or members of the cadet guard, faculty members, and residence hall staff members or house supervisors, as well as any staff member within the Division of Student Affairs.” If one does not, he will get a failure to comply and it is likely he will be found guilty and incur any punishment that comes along with the guilty verdict.
However, after I think about it, most of these people are not police officers. Under the policy, the official does have to present identification if the student requests it as well, but that does not change the fact that most are not officers of the law. They are not sworn to uphold the law and they do not have any special authority from the nature of most of these positions.
Under this policy, any employee can ask for my identification and I’ll get in trouble with the university if I do not comply. This makes no sense to me. It is one thing if a police officer or security guard asks me to do so; I would most definitely give them my ID. However, in this case he is bound by the law, or in the case of the security guard, he has to call a police officer if they find anything suspicious. But either way, the law is involved.
We, as students, need to engage in a university-wide debate over these policies and whether, as those affected by them, we agree with them. In some cases, it is our fellow students that are making these ridiculous policies. It is important for the university to hear back if we do not agree, so that, if necessary, change can take place.