Academic journal article Suffolk University Law Review

Cocktails on Campus: Are Libations a Liability?

Academic journal article Suffolk University Law Review

Cocktails on Campus: Are Libations a Liability?

Article excerpt


A. Will Modern Expectations and Resulting Pressure from Parents Lead to a Return to the Concept of a Duty Based on In Loco Parentis?

In the thirty-five years since Bradshaw, courts have echoed the firm position that the doctrine of in loco parentis no longer applies to the role that universities fulfill vis-a-vis their adult students. This Article argues that the predominant view of the past thirty-five years should remain the same with regard to universities' liability for alcohol-related incidents: The college owes no legal duty to supervise or protect adult students from voluntary intoxication. A return to the in loco parentis rationale--even if parents may wish it--is inconsistent with the true purpose and goals of higher education. (258) Parents today expect more from college administrators and staff in terms of supervision and protection than in recent decades.

The current generation of parents has been described as "helicopter parents" because they hover over their children and are loath to leave them unattended. Even after the child reaches the age of majority, many parents still exhibit an unwillingness to relinquish control. Undergraduate deans at prestigious schools such as the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, New York University, and the University of Washington reported that as of the past few years, parents have been contacting the schools to find out about their adult children's grades, finances, and housing arrangements. (259) It is not uncommon for parents to investigate the assigned roommates before delivering their children to the freshmen dormitories, and parents who find Facebook postings that leave a bad impression have been known to request that the college reassign the roommates. (260) Parents even get involved in disputes over grades, arguing with a professor that a B+ should have been an A-, for example. (261)

These parents are the same individuals who grew up during the Vietnam War, earned the right to vote at eighteen, and attended college during the 1970s and 1980s. Most came of age during the peak period when university students asserted their rights as adults and rejected the idea that they needed supervision by college officials or any authority figures. It was not until the late 1960s that some colleges experimented with coeducational, open (uncontrolled access to rooms) dormitories. (262) The freedom to come and go from the dormitory rooms of the opposite gender accompanied many other freedoms and privileges of adulthood that students demanded and succeeded in obtaining. Demonstrations against the Vietnam War sparked violence on campuses such as the University of California-Berkeley, Kent State, Cornell University, and Jackson State. (263) The National Guard's shooting of four student protesters at Kent State in 1970 became a tragic, galvanizing moment in the student movement. (264)

Now, a few decades later, these individuals are unwilling to allow their adult children to enjoy the same independence that they insisted upon as college students. Not only is this situation ironic, but it may have a legal impact on the role that college administrators play. Indeed, it may have some effect on whether courts in the future find that universities have a legal duty to protect and supervise adult students.

It is conceivable, but not ideal, that the law may shift to represent the contemporary standards based on what current "helicopter parents" want the role of the colleges to be. Helicopter parents prefer to be directly involved in their children's lives, but if their involvement is curtailed, they expect the university to assume the role of caretaker. As parents exert pressure on college administrators to increase their supervision over the lives of students, an echo of the old refrain of "in loco parentis" undergirds some of the parental requests. …

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