Some advice as new families depart campus

Today is a busy day here with advising the new first-year students and wrapping up the Orientation activities for parents and families.  Our newest Deacs will still have a boatload of Orientation activities Friday through Sunday.  I want to mention one thing to the Daily Deac families as you are preparing to leave your Deacs, and that is to offer a note of caution about parties.

At every college in the United States, campus and local law enforcement know when the start of school begins. Which means they know that there is a new crop of underage students.  Winston-Salem is no different.  And there will be many opportunities for your students to go to parties/tailgates/bars in the coming weeks.  Please talk to your first-year (or any underage) students now and remind them that they need to be careful – both physically careful with what they put in their bodies, and careful in terms of the potential risky situations in which they might find themselves.  I’m going to focus mainly on the second point, because I hope you and your Deacs have already had some conversations about your family’s values regarding alcohol and other substances.

I can set my watch to the fact that within a week or two of school starting, I will get a late night text telling me that there is a large group of students who are being cited at an off campus location for underage drinking.  I would bet you my next mortgage payment it will happen this year.  And it is not hard to guess where that kind of bust might take place – typically it is at an off campus residence where there are either tons of students standing around in the front yard/back yard with red solo cups in hand, or they are inside the house – but generally there is a lot of noise and commotion and the police might be called for a noise violation.  And then every student present could potentially be cited for underage possession.  A further twist: jurisdiction for off campus violations is the purview of city police, not campus police. So instead of just having an issue with our student conduct office, they have an official City of Winston-Salem issue.

So a couple of words of advice, especially to our P’21 new families:

Talk to your Deacs about making sure to stick with the Orientation schedule.  If they hear about a party and it conflicts with regular orientation programming, they should not go to the party.  The orientation programming is there for a reason: to bond our new class to each other and to keep them engaged in meaningful activities.  Your Class of ’21 Deacs received this message about attendance at the planned Orientation programs. (I promise your students that there will be PLENTY of time after the semester begins to meet upperclassmen and go to parties if they wish).

Talk to your Deacs about making smart choices.  Knowing that off campus gatherings with tons of students means a high likelihood of ALE (Alcohol Law Enforcement) stopping by, you want to be sure your Deac isn’t making dangerous personal decisions and/or is not cited for underage drinking.  If your Deac is not drinking, and is not in possession of alcohol, logic says he/she is not likely to be cited.  ALE will be especially vigilant the first few weeks of school, and the first few football games.

Your Deacs are going through so many important transitions as they begin school, and there can be a lot of anxiety about the coursework, finding a friend group, etc.  Your Deacs DO NOT want to add to that stress by having to call you and tell you that on their first weekend away from home, they now have a citation with the local police and a conduct hearing on campus.  That can completely sour the first few weeks of their experience, so please urge them not to put themselves in a situation where they are likely to face an unpleasant consequence.  (Every year I write on this topic, I get parents who email me and say “I wish my Deac had listened to this!”)

Talk to your Deac about being vigilant about personal safety.  Making smart choices also means not going to some location you are not familiar with and walking home alone at 2 am.  Winston-Salem has Uber, which many students use.  There is also the old “Buddy system” of going places in groups and not leaving anyone behind.  So make sure you talk to your Deac about maximizing their safety and not doing things that are risky.  Some tips are here.

I say this not to alarm you, but to arm you with information that might help save your Deacs some pain later.  They will be involved in many Orientation sessions about safety and high risk behavior, but hearing from Mom, Dad, or loved ones about your expectations is a good reminder as you depart campus.  I don’t mean for you to nag or lecture.  But just to tell them that they are now in a new situation, with new nuances and rules they may not be aware of, and you want to help them think before they act so that they have the best outcomes possible.

And here is a little gem we share at Orientation and other times.  Research from Penn State shows that when students talk to their parents/loved ones on a Friday afternoon, they engage in less risky behavior on the weekends (more details). So if you are looking for that set time each week to call, you might suggest that Friday around 4 or 5 pm is a good time for you and make it a regular date 🙂

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