In loco parentis

I often think about the role that schools, including universities, play as “parent” to their students. Prior to the 1960’s, this role was strong: pregnant teenagers often were not allowed to complete high school, curfew and conduct rules, especially for female students, existed at most colleges and universities, etc… In the 1960’s, this changed. Students rebelled. The Supreme Court said colleges could not arbitrarily expel students (for instance, for attending civil rights demonstrations). There was an approximately 180 degree turn with students being viewed as independent adults. More recently, there has been a shift back towards colleges and universities acting in loco parentis. There are rules limiting relationships between faculty and students, for instance, even when the faculty and students are not in an instructor/student or mentor/mentee relationship. The in loco parentis emphasis in the reason behind these new rules is clear in the quote from Billie Dziech: “It sends a message: You don’t sleep with other people’s children — whether they agree to do it or not — because you’re abusing your power.” Undergraduate students are children. See:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2015/02/05/harvard-formally-bans-sexual-relationships-between-professors-and-undergrads/

Currently, Colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences are suffering from decreases in enrollments. Basic demographic trends in America are behind some of these losses; peak 18-24 year old population has passed; it will tick up again in a few years but much of the uptick will be due to immigration, which might not correspond to the same growth in Liberal Arts enrollment as occurred during past upticks. In order to attract more students to the Liberal Arts, some schools, such as Wake Forest University, are combining an emphasis on career preparation with a liberal arts degree. Students learn to write resumes in addition to learning to write essays and poetry. The Wake Forest program is impressive. It includes steps for Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors to take while in College to prepare for careers. Students can take classes to explore what will make them happy, get help creating linkedin profiles and resumes, plan for internships, job shadowing, and/or international experiences, and even get help learning how to interview. See:

http://career.opcd.wfu.edu/

Such programs can add value to a liberal arts education. They are also part of colleges and universities acting in loco parentis, providing students with extra guidance and protection from the bad choice of not planning for a career. When thinking about these shifts back to regarding students as children, I wonder if we should not also impose curfews again. A bad choice a number of students make is partying too late in the evenings. A curfew and a bed check at midnight on schoolnights and 1 am on the weekends, something I might well do with teenage children, might also help improve the on-time graduation rate…..

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