- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2008

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) | The threat of a scolding from mom and dad may be among the most effective deterrents to underage drinking among college students.

Tough parental notification rules at Frostburg State University have helped slash alcohol violations at the Western Maryland school, says President Jonathan C. Gibralter, who won national recognition for his efforts this week.

The school’s policies include notifying parents of alcohol violations and bringing students before a university judicial board even if they were arrested off campus. Frostburg State officials credit those policies with an 89 percent plunge in second offenses after the rules were implemented in the 1998-99 school year.

Off-campus citations dropped 39 percent after Mr. Gibralter extended the policies to off-campus arrests last year.

“Clearly, working with parents gets the message out,” Mr. Gibralter said. “If your mom or dad calls you up and says, ‘If I hear another word that you’re out of line, you’re out of school,’ I think that probably has an impact.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Gibralter received the Presidential Leadership Award from a coalition of seven higher-education groups that hand out the $50,000 prize annually to recognize successes in fighting college alcohol abuse. The prize money is donated to the institution in the winner’s name.

Mr. Gibralter, Frostburg State’s president since 2006, also has worked with students, staff, city officials, bar owners and even alcohol distributors to change the “culture of alcohol abuse” on campus and in the community. That is according to Outside the Classroom, a Boston-based developer of alcohol-education programs and a member of the award coalition.

Mr. Gibralter “stands out as a shining example of the real work being done to address this perennial, up-at-night issue for college campuses across the country,” Outside the Classroom founder Brandon Busteed said.

He said at least half the nation’s colleges and universities have some sort of parental notification policy for alcohol violations, and that parents overwhelmingly support such measures.

Frostburg State, with 4,300 undergraduate and 900 graduate students, is no stranger to binge-drinking tragedies. Authorities cited alcohol abuse as a factor in student deaths there in 2006 and 1997. In 2005, six field hockey players were fined $300 each for a boozy hazing ritual that nearly killed one of their teammates.

Mr. Gibralter said he opposes reconsidering the legal drinking age of 21, which some college presidents say encourages binge drinking and pushes alcohol into the shadows.

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