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In the Dean of Students Office, we know that parents are important educational partners for both inside and outside of the classroom. Here are some helpful tips we are asked about by a number of parents.

How to Talk About Alcohol

Talking with your college student about drinking can be difficult. The first step is to be prepared and know some of the facts. Whether you choose to drink or not, you need to understand the college drinking environment to help prepare your student for what potentially lies ahead. Read over our campus alcohol policy, as well as the Housing & Residential Education alcohol policy if your student lives on campus. Look through all the information for parents at the federal College Drinking Prevention website and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.

This is not a one time talk. Bringing up the topic before they arrive on campus, after they have settled in, and even after they turn 21 are all good ideas. Emphasis the safety risks involved not only from their drinking, but some of the risk from being around those who are drinking, even if your student is not. Make sure you student understands not all alcohols are the same, a common mistake by students. Talk about the different levels of alcohol contents (or proofs) and how if consumed in equal amounts, this will affect your student’s body and the ability to care for themselves. Reinforce the potential consequences from the legal system, the university and even you the parent if underage drinking were to occur. Talk with them about who is paying the ticket if they are caught drinking. Students pay attention when realize their behavior can have an impact on the bank account. If you need help, or have questions, please feel free to give the Dean of Students Office a call at 920-465-2152. We are always happy to help prevent something negative from happening to a student, because everyone in our office, is a parent as well.

How to Recognize Drug Use

Unfortunately some of today’s college students are known to use or abuse a variety of drugs, such as illegal/street drugs, prescription medications, and even over the counter drugs. If you are concerned about your student, start by looking at your child’s behavior. Any changes in mood such as anger, sadness, or nervousness for example? Are they paying less attention to relationships, either friends, family members or significant others? Are you noticing a decreased level of interest in activities they normally enjoyed or looked forward to? Do you notice they are going through money quickly, or asking for money, but being vague on what it will be used for? Take a look at their social media posts and pictures to learn what they are talking about with friends. Look around their room, or in their car (if they have one) for signs such as ashes, green leafy material, sticky surfaces, unknown smells/odors, strange or unmarked wrappers. Watch of small pipes, digital scales, cigarette rolling papers, tin foil, lighters or burnt spoons. All can be considered to be drug paraphernalia.

Whether you find evidence of use or not, make a point to just ask the direct question, "Are you using any drugs?" Just the fact that you are asking shows you care, and opens the discussion to what they may be seeing around campus or being used by their friends. If you have behaviors or evidence that makes you suspect they are using, ask them in a caring manner to explain what is going on and where they are spending their time. If they admit to using, don’t yell or get angry with them. This will only shut down future communication. Do talk with your child about why you are concerned for their well-being, how it could affect their future, and the possible legal risks. Offer to be supportive of helping them move away from the behavior. Keep in mind that depending on the drug, and how long they have used it, quitting may be hard for a variety of reasons. Be prepared to help pick your student up, dust them off, and help them keep walking in the right direction.

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Sanction Guidelines

We are often asked by parents, "What happens if my student gets caught doing…". Below are the minimum sanctions our office uses to guide our decision-making. Keep in mind, these are the minimums and factors such as fleeing the scene, providing alcohol or drugs to others, failing to comply with staff requests, will drive up the severity of sanctions assigned. Help your student understand that a little cooperation, can save them from even bigger problems.


Alcohol violations include; underage possession or consumption, hosting, providing (regardless of age) or possession/consumption in an area of campus where alcohol is not allowed (i.e. inside a residence hall, Phoenix Park, a classroom, the arboretum trail). Students over the age of 21 may be found responsible for violations of campus alcohol policies and will be sanctioned similarly to students under the legal drinking age.

1stThink about it: Alcohol online course and written reprimand
2ndInsight course, 6 months disciplinary probation, 10 hours of community engagement and parent notification letter
*Community Engagement can include community service, attending programs or planning events
3rdAlcohol assessment, housing termination (if a residential student), restriction from Housing & Residential Education grounds and 12 months probation

Hosting Underage Drinking

This would be in addition to sanctions assigned for personal consumption or possession of alcohol.

1stThink about it: Alcohol online course, host liability paper and written reprimand
2ndInsight course, host liability interviews with paper and 6 months disciplinary probation

Providing Alcohol to Underage Individuals

Note that a person does NOT need to be 21 years of age to provide alcohol. It is just having possession of alcohol and giving/selling that alcohol to someone else who is under the age of 21.

1stThink about it: Alcohol online course, providing liability exercise and written reprimand
2ndInsight course, providing liability interviews and 6 months disciplinary probation

Failure to Comply/False Statement

Examples can be providing a fake ID, fleeing the scene of an incident, failing to comply with reasonable requests of a Resident Assistant or Police Officer.

1st10 hours community service, a meeting with the Residential Education Coordinator, reflection paper AND 12 months probation
2ndHousing termination, restriction from Housing & Residential Education grounds, reflection paper, AND 12 months disciplinary probation

Possession of Marijuana or Drug Paraphernalia

Examples of drug paraphernalia can be pipes, bongs or baggies with marijuana residue, scales, grinders, or rolling papers.

1stThink about it: Drugs online course, 6 months disciplinary probation AND parent notification letter (if student is under 21)
2ndHousing termination, restriction from Housing & Residential Education areas, drug assessment, 12 months disciplinary probation
3rdSuspension from Universities of Wisconsin