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Virginia Tech tells parents of minor alcohol offenses

At Virginia Tech, where tailgating and raucous apartment complex parties are time-honored rituals, university officials are turning increasingly to Mom and Dad to curb problem underage drinking.

This semester, the school in Blacksburg, Va., began notifying parents when their under-21 students are found guilty of even minor alcohol violations such as getting caught with a beer in a dorm room.

Although it's common for colleges to alert parents of major alcohol offenses - or when a student faces suspension - Virginia Tech is part of a small but growing number sending letters home on minor ones.

"I think it helps students open up to parents," said Steven Clarke, director of Virginia Tech's College Alcohol Abuse Prevention Center. "And parents can be helpful in setting boundaries students might need."

The student reaction to the policy change, not surprisingly, has been less than enthusiastic.

"If you have one beer in the dorm and you get caught, I don't feel like parents should be notified," said Erik Pryslak, a junior engineering major. "Now that we're all in college, we're all adults. It's kind of your responsibility to take care of yourself."

Some universities already have found success in alerting parents earlier. The University at Albany, N.Y., has seen a decline in repeat offenders since it began notifying parents of under-21 students of minor alcohol violations four years ago, said Laurie Garafola, director of residential life.

"I don't send many second letters out to parents," she said.

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