For Many College Students, Home Means Both the Place They Live and the Place They Left

By Hulsey, Timothy L. | Phi Kappa Phi Forum, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

For Many College Students, Home Means Both the Place They Live and the Place They Left


Hulsey, Timothy L., Phi Kappa Phi Forum


Most students reach the age of majority as they begin higher education. but being legally accountable for their actions has not led to increased freedoms for them. Rather, recent years have seen the surprising return of an old notion: in loco parentis, Latin for "instead of or in place of a parent." Even as students arrive to campus as adults in a technical sense, colleges and universities are pressured to assume greater responsibility for them. The transition, then, from family home to undergraduate living can be difficult for all parties: students, parents, and schools.

Dennis Black, head of university life and services at State Universitv of New York in Buffalo, saw these developments coming. He observed in 2000:

Although students arrive for higher education today as adults, student affairs professionals are being asked to prepare them to deal quickly with adult responsibilities. The campus is quite different than it was when baby boomer parents of today's traditional students were in college. In decades gone by, campus life was highly regulated and regimented by the college or university. The campus exercised control over student life and experiences. Today, students have much more legal and social responsibility for themselves, their education, and their lives. In the past, the college was the adult influence in student college lives. Today, students themselves are the adults, with rights and responsibilities derived both from campus and community codes. In these times, colleges and universities are being asked to assume greater responsibility7 for students and their behavior at a time when it would seem higher education should be exercising less concern and control. (1)

Many students expect oversight from their parents and school. As Bradley University's Alan Galsky and Joyce Shotick note recently in The Chronicle of Higher Education, millennial parents are "very active in calling or e-mailing their children's professors, as well as college administrators and staff, with their concerns. While such calls have always taken place to a limited extent, they now occur on a daily basis--with the knowledge and approval of the student"(2) For example, a parent demanded that a university "provide technical computer support 24 hours a day because her daughter had electronically Tost' a term paper at 3 a.m. that was due later that morning."(3)

"Velcro parents," those unwilling or unable to let go of their children, facilitate this ongoing dependence. "Some under graduate officials see in parents' separation anxieties evidence of the excesses of modern child-rearing," writes Trip Gabriel for The New York Times.4 "A good deal of it has to do with the evolution of overinvolvement in our students' lives," explains W. Houston Dougharty, steward of student affairs at Grinnell College. "These are the baby-on-board parents," Dougharty elaborates to Gabriel, "highly in vested in their students' success." The result is a generational sea change, declares Sue Wasiolek, dean of students at Duke University. "It's ironic that the students who wanted to eliminate any kind of parental role that the university played--making them sign in and out of dorms, for example--have become parents who demand to be involved in their children's lives," she comments in "Helicopter Parents," Bridget Booher's article for Duke Magazine a few years ago. …

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