When do undergraduate students become responsible for themselves? The relationship between the perceptions of underage undergraduate students, alcohol consumption, and institutional legal responsibilities to protect them from foreseeable harm
Caires, Matthew R.
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This study looks at the perceptions of underage undergraduate students at the University of Wyoming (UW) regarding the institution’s responsibility to protect them from foreseeable harm. It also quantifies the extent and nature of alcohol consumption by underage undergraduate students at UW. The research population that was identified for this study are undergraduate students enrolled full-time at the University of Wyoming between the ages of 18-21 years old. The author collected and analyzed 2,218 survey responses from the research population in this quantitative study. There were several demographic variables and factors that influenced the research participants’ perspectives about university responsibility to protect them from foreseeable harm. Many of these factors influenced the research participants’ reported level of consuming drinks that contained alcohol. Nevertheless, the research participants in this study did not overwhelmingly state that the university was responsible to protect them from foreseeable harm. Since the inception of American higher education in the 17th century, campus officials have stood in loco parentis and have enjoyed wide latitude to control the lives of students outside the classroom. College faculty and administrators under in loco parentis benefited from legal immunity in nearly all aspects of how they ran their institutions, especially in regard to controlling out of class activities and student behavior. The legal principles used to ensure student safety on the college campus continues to evolve during the early 21st century. Today, establishing the appropriate level of legal responsibility that a university has to protect students from foreseeable injury remains unclear. Understanding these responsibilities is vital for higher education institutions, as traditional-aged students continue to injure themselves after consuming high-levels of alcohol. Based upon this study, several recommendations are made to alter current university policies and resource allocation. Although not a call to return to in loco parentis, the data from this study suggests that university officials might consider adopting additional measures that enforce underage and high-risk drinking policies in on-campus living environments with high-concentrations of underage residents.
Caires, M. R. (2009). When do undergraduate students become responsible for themselves? the relationship between the perceptions of underage undergraduate students, alcohol consumption, and institutional legal responsibilities to protect them from foreseeable harm