August 13th, 2020
Dear Bobcat parent and family members,
Earlier this week I sent you some "light" reading on the history of the legal relationship between colleges and students. Originally known as In Loco Parentis - Latin for "in the place of the parent" - this legal relationship has evolved significantly in the last 60 years.
The major changes to how colleges and universities worked with students came during the 1960s, after the landmark legal ruling in Dixon v. Alabama State Board of Education, 294 F.2d 150 (5th Cir. 1961). Prior to the Dixon case, college students were legally seen as adolescents without adult rights as protected by the U.S. Constitution. That means colleges could summarily discipline students without any type of notice of wrong-doing or administrative hearing where students could explain their side of the story to an impartial decision-maker.
The Dixon case offered profound changes as to how colleges and universities treated students with alleged conduct violations and how they oversaw and managed student activities both on and off campus. You can read more about the Dixon case and the fall, and fallout, of In Loco Parentis in this informative article on the SUNY website.
What is the point to all of this legal history around student conduct codes? I want to make sure you have a strong understanding of how we will be working with your student at MSU, especially in terms of our expectations for students adhering to campus policies regarding alcohol and drug use, face-covering requirements, and other important campus rules. Through flyers and emails, we communicate Know Your Code messaging to students and have a dedicated webpage to help students be aware of their rights and the responsibility they have to follow campus policies.
If you haven't had a chance to discuss the University's Code of Student Conduct, our alcohol policies, or our face-covering requirements with your student, I encourage you to start having these conversations. Ask your student if they have appropriate face-coverings for classrooms and how they plan to comply with this policy. I'm encouraging students to carry two face-coverings with them at all times, just in case one is soiled or becomes otherwise unusable.
One of the key messages that our students are hearing about COVID-19 when they come back to campus this week is this: We are all in this together. Each of us has a personal responsibility to follow public health directives -- wear face-coverings, wash our hands, practice social distancing and stay at home when you're sick. Our individual actions can have a collective effect and will help turn the corner on this terrible virus. Fall 2020 will be an extraordinary experience for our students. Their diligence is needed to make sure that campus is as safe as possible for everyone here at MSU.
Matthew R. Caires