Family Communications: Guidelines and Philosophy

A student walks across Manchester Plaza

Wake Forest believes parents and family members can be our best partners in ensuring their students’ success. We recognize that parents and families are important sources of support and care.

We seek to engage parents and families in ways that are developmentally appropriate and allow students to make independent decisions as they enter adulthood. We believe in creating an environment where students are given the freedom and autonomy to solve their own problems, experience struggle, difficulty, and even failure. These experiences will help students develop problem-solving skills and the resilience they need to be independent, successful adults. We also know that there may be times when it is both necessary and important to communicate with a student’s loved one. This document seeks to explain circumstances regarding when and how Wake Forest administrators may communicate with parents and families.

Wake Forest believes students should:

  • Be encouraged to make their own decisions about their Wake Forest experience – whether that is selection of classes, choice of a major, which co-curricular activities they are involved in, and/or how they manage their time, finances, and personal wellbeing. 
  • Learn how to advocate for themselves and create positive relationships with different departments and helping resources on campus (such as housing, financial services, parking, academic advising, etc.). We believe students should be the first point of contact in working with campus offices when they need assistance.
  • Be afforded the privacy that is granted to them under FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). In accordance with FERPA, University employees are generally not permitted to share information about the student’s academic performance or other information regarding the student with parents or family members without the student’s permission.
  • Participate in a collegiate environment where mistakes can be seen as opportunities for learning and growth.
  • Have access to helping resources on campus that attend to their holistic wellbeing including their emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual health.
  • Our Navigating Student and Family Roles page offers examples of student responsibilities vs. family responsibilities that we hope provides some role clarity.

Communications from Wake Forest to parents and families

Typically, any email that is sent to students, faculty, and staff is listed on our Family News website so it is accessible to Wake Forest families; emails sent to students are not automatically sent to families. There are times when Wake Forest will communicate directly with parents or family members. The following sections provide information regarding those circumstances, including how Wake Forest might communicate with parents and family members. We encourage parents and families to subscribe to our Daily Deac blog, which provides a daily snapshot of campus life and can be a way of meaningfully connecting to your student’s campus experiences.

  • Regular, ongoing communication with parents and families

    The Wake Parents & Families e-newsletter is automatically sent out mid-month by email to all parents and families for whom we have an updated email address.  

    If you are not receiving the email, one of two things may have happened: 1) we do not have a valid email address for you, or 2) the e-newsletter is being routed into your junk email or spam folder. You can search your email for ‘Wake Parents & Families’ or ‘Office of Family Engagement’ and if you find us in your junk email or spam folder, please mark us as a safe sender and/or move to your inbox.

    If you are not receiving this e-newsletter, email with your full name, email address, and your student’s name and we’d be happy to add you.

    The Daily Deac is our daily blog for parents and families published around 5 pm ET every weekday. It’s a great way to get a snapshot of life at Wake Forest. You can subscribe on the Daily Deac page by typing your email address in the Subscribe box; the blog will then be emailed to your inbox.

  • Serious crime on or near campus, and/or emergency situation or significant weather alert

    In compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (the “Clery Act”), Wake Forest University issues timely warning notices to alert the campus community of Clery Act crimes that the University determines represent a serious or continuing threat to the campus.

    Visit for more information on the Clery Act.

    In addition, the University will issue an emergency notification when there is a significant emergency or dangerous situation occurring on the campus involving an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or employees. Examples of emergencies that would warrant such a notification include: a riot, a bomb threat, a tornado, a fire, and similar situations involving active threats. Depending on the severity, the university may also advise of significant pending weather situations (hurricane, major snowstorm, etc.). 


    • Students, faculty, and staff will be notified via email of timely warnings, and students may also receive text messages or hear alerts on the outdoor alarm system when there is an emergency notification.
    • Parents/family members will be notified via email of incidents that involve weapons, or where students are seriously injured. In an emergency, our primary concern will always be getting our students the information they need to stay safe.
      • However, parents and family members can register to receive all crime alerts and other updates that are sent to students via Wake Ready; subscribe at NOTE: Emails are sent daily at noon, but only if new updates have been posted in the previous 24 hours.
    • Parents/family members may be notified of significant pending weather that might impact campus, or is occurring at key travel times, depending on the timing and severity (e.g., a hurricane predicted for our coast, a major snowstorm projected for finals week, etc.)
    • We strongly encourage students to text or call their parents/family members as soon as possible to report they are safe.
  • Serious crime or threat to students in a study abroad/away program

    The Center for Global Programs and Studies (GPS) partners with WorldAware Inc., a global risk management service, to monitor worldwide events and developments that may impact university-sponsored travelers. Alerts are provided to students about threats to health and safety in countries where students are studying.


    • Students, faculty, and staff will be notified via email or text of threats to health and safety. Those emails typically contain information or instructions about how to stay safe or how to report that you are OK and not impacted by the incident. We strongly encourage students to text or call their parents/family members as soon as possible to report they are safe.
    • Only parents/family members with students in the impacted area will be notified via email of serious incidents. If you do not hear from Wake Forest, assume your student is not known to be at risk.

    If your student will be traveling abroad/away at a future date, you will not be included in this message. You can assume that we will communicate with your students if there are changes to their study abroad/away program because of safety reasons.

  • Communicable diseases

    In the event that a student, faculty, or staff member is diagnosed with a communicable disease that would necessitate a public health response (such as mumps, bacterial meningitis, etc.), we would communicate as follows.


    • Students, faculty, and staff will be notified via email. Depending on the illness, notification may go to all of the campus community, or just a subset (for example, students from the same residence hall if there is an identified communicable illness in that hall). Those emails typically contain information about symptoms and when to contact the Student Health Service if students are concerned they might be affected. For those who are concerned, they are encouraged to check in with the Student Health Service.
    • Students who are considered to be at high risk because of exposure will be notified by the Student Health Service and/or the Forsyth County Health Department based upon the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the North Carolina Department of Public Health, and the Division of Infectious Diseases of the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Potential screening and treatment will be offered and administered as indicated to prevent subsequent cases in at-risk students. If a student does not receive an individual email, text message, or phone call requesting a screening from the Student Health Service and/or the Forsyth County Health Department, the student is not known to be at risk.
    • Parents/family members may be notified via email of a communicable disease on campus. Generally, we would not notify families of diseases such as influenza or norovirus, but we would notify when there are cases of bacterial meningitis, or mumps, or other infectious diseases that pose a significant threat to others on campus. However, please remember that unless your student has received an individual email, text message, or phone call requesting a screening from the Student Health Service and/or the Forsyth County Health Department, your student is not known to be at risk.
  • Serious illness or accident involving your student

    North Carolina law generally prohibits healthcare providers from disclosing medical information about individuals who are 18 years of age and older to family and friends without permission of the individual. However, if a student experiences a medical emergency or life-threatening health concern, the University has a robust set of on-call personnel to coordinate response to these incidents, and informing families is a high priority.

  • Drug or alcohol incidents involving your student

    In accordance with Wake Forest University’s Student Conduct Code and as permitted by FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), parents or family members may be contacted by mail and/or phone if their student is found in violation of its alcohol or other drug policies. Parents or family members may be contacted to discuss the challenges students are navigating.

  • Serious mental health or wellbeing issue involving your student

    If your student is experiencing a serious mental health issue or a serious threat to their wellbeing, the university can utilize various interventions based on the needs of the individual concerns. Due to North Carolina law, mental health providers on campus are not able to communicate about the clinical treatment of clients who are 18 years of age and older without the written permission of the client/student. This limitation also applies to confirming or denying whether a student has sought care with a university mental health provider. Mental health providers regularly invite students to sign appropriate documentation so that communication with parents/families can occur as appropriate. In addition, parents/family members may be notified via phone (or email if we have no phone number for the family) when the provider determines that there is a serious concern for the student’s health and/or safety.

  • Death of a student (or other member of the campus community)

    When a Wake Forest student dies, we alert the campus community and parents/family members as follows:


    • Parents/family members of the deceased student will be notified as quickly as possible.
    • Students, faculty, and staff will be notified via email of a student’s death. Those emails typically contain information about how to access support in their grieving.
    • Parents/family members of the student body will be notified via email of a student’s death. NOTE: out of respect for the family of the deceased student and in keeping with medical privacy laws, the University will not disclose the cause of death without the permission of the deceased student’s family. Please know that in the case of a death related to a communicable disease, if a student does not receive an individual email, text message, or phone call requesting a screening from the Student Health Service and/or the Forsyth County Health Department, the student is not known to be at risk.

    We do not routinely email parents and families about the death of a faculty or staff member, though we will share that on the Family News page. We do not disclose the cause of death of a faculty or staff member without the permission of the deceased’s family.

  • Fraternity/sorority chapter or student organization issues

    In the event of a serious issue with a fraternity/sorority chapter or student organization, the following typically happens:


    • Students in that organization are notified of the incident and the status of the chapter or organization. Those emails typically contain information about next steps if it is a conduct issue.
    • Parents/family members/alumni/ae of a chapter or organization will be notified after an incident regarding substantial risk or harm to health and safety and/or at the conclusion of a student conduct proceeding resulting in a chapter or organization’s deferred suspension or suspension. In certain circumstances, parents and families may be notified prior to a student conduct proceeding. The factors considered in making the decision whether to notify families include: severity of risk or harm to students or community, the public nature of an incident, and prior student conduct record of the chapter.
  • Invitations to events

    Parents and families may also receive invitations to Wake Forest events on campus or in their home areas. Often invitations come from what we call WAKE Communities (like WAKE Atlanta, or WAKE New York), which are like regional clubs. WAKE Community events are open to alumni, parents, and friends of WFU. If there are WAKE Community events in your area, we hope you’ll consider attending.

    NOTE: sometimes event invitations are marketed by the Office of Alumni Engagement, but they are open to all Wake Foresters, no matter their affiliation. Please know that even if an email says the word “alumni,” if you received it, you were invited too!

  • How parents and families can alert Wake Forest if they have a concern about their student

    If you have a particular concern about your student and want assistance in supporting your student or directing them to resources on campus, contact any of the following offices:

    Emergency Response/24-7 (year-round)

    Non-emergency Response

    Online Reporting Options

  • How to receive Wake Ready alerts for parents and families

    Wake Forest University Police encourages parents and families to sign up to receive crime alerts on the Wake Ready website. Crime alerts are emailed daily at noon, but only if new alerts have been posted in the previous 24 hours. So if a crime alert is issued at 11 am on a Tuesday, you will be notified at 12 noon on Tuesday. If a crime alert is issued at 2 pm on Tuesday, you will be notified at 12 noon on Wednesday.

    All crime alerts are posted to the Family News section of the Parents and Families page in as close to real time as possible. They will also be linked to in the Daily Deac blog.

The Role of Parents and Family Members

As you consider your student’s Wake Forest experience, we encourage parents and families to use the Stop, Drop, and Roll method – a philosophy that allows students to achieve each of the goals outlined on this webpage. If your student tells you about a problem or a frustration they have, a decision they need to make, or a routine task they need to complete, we encourage parents and families to:

  • Stop, and take a deep breath
  • Drop the urge to solve the problem for them or provide instructions on how to resolve the issue/make the decision/handle the task. Instead, be curious and respond with additional questions: What might you do? What are you considering? Are there any offices on campus who might be able to help you? Have you asked a staff member, faculty member, or RA for help?
  • Roll with whatever solution your student comes up with on their own, even if it is different from what you might have done.

Contact Info

Betsy Chapman, Ph.D. (’92, MA ’94)