Friday, October 24, 2008

Does "Parental Notification" violate privacy?

UCSB is the only UC campus, but not the only UC, that endeavors to notify parents when a student has gotten in trouble with the police for drinking or doing drugs. More specifically when a UCSB student is either cited or arrested for any alcohol or drug related offense in Isla Vista (not the UCSB campus, interestingly) two letters will be mailed. The first will go the student expressing concern and making mention of counseling resources available. Then, about a week or two later, a second letter will be mailed to the "Permanent Address" of the student informing the presumed Parent/Guardian living there of the fact of the arrest or citation. This, of course, adds a whole other dimension to getting busted. For those of you who try to keep secrets from your parents, take notice that, when you get busted, not only must you be accountable to the Court, but in many cases you might have some explaining to do to your parent as well. Many students have expressed grievances about this "Big Brother" policy in effect, remarking that their misfortunes while out partying are not their parents' business nor concern. Naturally, parents and University officials feel differently. It could very well be that this program serves as a deterrent to the undesirable conduct. Binge drinking and drinking under age can have devastating consequences (separate from, and more serious than, an arrest or citation). It is NOT a violation of your privacy, legally speaking, as the information reported is public record. The University is certainly behaving in an officious way, but it does not amount to an actionable Privacy rights violation where the reported information is both part of the public record and true. Sorry.

To those who want to keep their legal misfortunes private from their parents, please consider that abuse of alcohol and drugs, especially when under age, is a destructive activity. Having said that, as a staunch civil libertarian, and one who generally disapproves of "Big Brother" tactics, I will say this: If you don't want your parents to get the "memo" you can ask to have the "Permanent Address" in your school file removed and/or changed. As an adult (18 years and older), regardless of who is paying your tuition, room and board, etc., the University has no right to force to you to disclose a permanent address, nor the contact information of your parents. Food for thought. My disclaimer, as always, is that the aforementioned alternative to "Big Brother" is that, if you want to be treated as an adult, act like one. Drink responsibly and don't break the law.


Anonymous said...

Maybe you should also add pay you own way then.

I know of almost no relationship, business or personal, where a funding party shouldn't be made aware of actions that impair an investment. This sounds like a material adverse change.

I know you won't like to hear this but it is the case.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with the assumptions in "Anonymous"'s post, above -- parents aren't always "a funding party."

I paid my own way through college -- left home when I graduated high school at age 18, got a job, and without ever receiving a dime or so much as a hot meal from my parents (or any relative), I put myself through school. (I have student loans, but no one even co-signed for me or anything like that.)

I wonder, if I had gone to UCSB, would my parents have gotten a letter about it if I had gotten in trouble? Even though I wasn't dependant on them in any way (or even particularly close to them) I still designated my parents as my next-of-kin, because I would have wanted them to get notified had I died.

That policy seems like a terrible violation of privacy. And other UC schools don't do it?