Dear Bobcat parent and family members,
We've had such a busy semester at MSU! Our recent Homecoming and Parent and Family Weekends have been spectacular events, and Halloween celebrations will be in full swing this weekend and the following week. With that in mind, at this time of year I always remind our MSU community -- you included -- that we want our students to make safe and smart decisions while enjoying their time outside the classroom.
As the university's dean of students, I want to be clear with you that I worry about our students this upcoming weekend. Halloween typically results in our highest number of alcohol/drug violations and student incidents. Please take time this week to check in with your student about their Halloween plans. In addition to planning their costume, we encourage them to also plan for:
- How they will get to and from events.
- Which trusted friends they will be with.
- How long they intend to stay at events.
- What to do if they get separated from their group.
We remind students frequently about the type of behaviors we expect from our community as outlined in the MSU Code of Student Conduct, and that includes our drug and alcohol policies. All students should be familiar with these policies and understand that the University expects our students to abide by them. I encourage you to become familiar with the policies as well, and there are parent and family resources available to help with that.
MSU's Safe Cats app is also a great resource. The app's Friend Walk feature lets users send their location in real-time to a friend who can make sure they arrive at their destination safely. When a friend isn't available, students can use the Safety Escort feature to call our University Police Department and request a ride anywhere on campus.
In the Sept. 14 email message, I introduced the concept of "emerging adulthood." As they use this transitional time to explore the possibilities their futures hold, our students enjoy a number of adult rights, such as due process and the freedoms of speech, press and assembly. Any time we talk about student rights on campus, however, it's also important to frame these rights in the context of the responsibilities that come with adulthood.
The legal relationship between students and institutions of higher learning has evolved significantly throughout U.S. history. In the beginning, our legal relationship with students was known as In Loco Parentis -- Latin for "in the place of the parent." The landmark shift to that relationship came in the 1960s with the legal ruling in Dixon v. Alabama State Board of Education.
Before the Dixon case, college students were legally seen as children in the custody of their college or university. That meant administrators could discipline students without notice of wrongdoing or a disciplinary hearing where students could present their side of the story. Dixon had a profound impact on how colleges and universities approach student conduct violations and oversee student activities. You can read more about the historic case in this article from the State University of New York.
This context is important because I want you to understand how MSU enforces its Code of Student Conduct while also protecting our students' rights as adults. Our Know Your Code webpage breaks it down for students, faculty, staff and parents, and our door is always open to assist students in understanding both their rights and their responsibilities.
Now, I would also like to let you know of some upcoming dates if you have continuing students: Priority Registration opened Oct. 24 and runs through Nov. 15. Students should take advantage of Priority Registration to ensure they get the classes they need for next semester. We encourage all students to be registered for the spring semester by Thanksgiving. Detailed registration information, including the spring 2024 registration timetable and a breakdown of the steps in the registration process, can be found on the Registration Process webpage.
Note: Students must receive a registration PIN from their advisor before they can register for spring semester classes. Your student can find out who their advisor is here and make an appointment to meet with them to review their degree track progress before registering.
As I mentioned in my last message on the FAFSA topic and student aid, the Cat Scholarships application portal for MSU-based aid opens Nov. 1. This portal is an excellent resource where students can find general and college-specific applications for most scholarships at MSU. By completing the application, the system automatically steers students toward the opportunities that fit them best. The priority deadline for most scholarships in that system is Feb. 1.
Matthew R. Caires
Bobcat Parent and Family Program, Montana State University