Last updateWed, 14 Apr 2021 11am

Ask the Experts



A Sad Truth

As a student, I have seen alcohol abuse and several classmates become depressed. I have not seen any action by the university. Why does our school have a passive policy on these issues?

This question should be posted at nearly every university. Nationwide, over 1,800 students die every year from alcohol-related incidents and over 600,000 are injured as a direct result of excess consumption. Depression and suicide can be the final chapter for others, without counseling. So why is the response administrative torpor to America’s long-standing social problems?

Binge drinking has reportedly increased to over 40% among college students, at one time during their 4 years. Many view this as a rite of passage while attending a university. Studies show there has been a consumption trend from beer to hard liquor, because getting drunk quicker is now the goal. This is directly responsible for the increase in alcohol-related accidents involving students, explains a DUI attorney.

Prevention and intervention strategies have educated students on the dangers of alcohol abuse. However, colleges continue to view student alcohol abuse as an individual problem, rather than a public health crisis. Administrators believe that providing information may not solve the problem, but does absolve them from further responsibility.

Institutions often turn a blind eye to an almost ritualistic part of college life. Many have the determination and courage to take an aggressive stance against student alcoholism. However, they are often thwarted by administration failures, budget constraints, or resistance from fraternities and sororities. Remember, this is an inherited problem, where some students arrive at college already abusing alcohol.

Policy makers at the Department of Education did establish the Higher Education Center for Alcohol, Drug Use and Violence Prevention. However, studies have shown that participating colleges reported only minor improvements in drinking behavior.

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Athletic Abandon

Our fraternity has several athletes on scholarship. If they can no longer play, even with good grades, what happens to my friends?

Your question is touching because you omit the obvious. When you say your friends cannot play for their college teams, you mean they were injured on the field. This is a harsh reality of college sports, which does not offer the same financial compensation or protections of professional sports leagues. There are clearly rules protecting college athletes, but even ObamaCare does not cover medical expenses for many events. We will examine what protections college competitors receive by law, NCAA rule and even goodwill.

How many student athletes are injured each year? The statistics are compiled by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the National Athletic Trainers' Association which collects reports submitted by trainers. The figure of around 12,500 serious injuries-per-year has been consistent over the past few years. Over 54% of students claim to have played while injured, while over 90% reported some kind of sports-related injury during their college years.

Who picks up the medical bills for injuries caused while playing sports at college? NCAA member institutions are not obliged to provide long-term care for athletes who have lost eligibility or graduated. This also extends to student athletes who have lost their scholarships while still enrolled at college due to injury and inability to play.

NCAA bylaws require that student athletes have medical insurance to cover expenses relating to sports injuries. Colleges are not required to cover expenses that exceed insurance limits, leaving the students or parents to pay the bill. When treatment exceeds $90,000, NCAA Catastrophic Injury Insurance Program will apply. Student athletes participating in NCAA championship events are covered by insurance under the Participant Accident Program.

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Parental Perspective

My parents do not understand how much college has changed since they were here. Please explain it to them?

You know you parents had the same request when they were students and tried to explain a changing world to your grandparents. However, your generation has clearly seen exponential changes in college, career and life. The advent of the digital age surely leads the way, but you will read below your parents’ generation set changes in motion that you are now experiencing.

There is no doubt that the world is a different place now, with attitudes to life, love and work for young adults vastly different from a generation or two ago. Firstly, college admission and attendance itself has changed; more students than ever before are attending college. Around 70% of high school graduates are now enrolled in college according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Undergraduate enrollment has over doubled in the past four decades, but completion rate remains virtually unchanged. Around 40% complete a degree in four years while 60% take six.

A delayed adulthood for this generation is affecting all aspects of work, age of leaving home, education, and marriage and children. A large number of young adults in their twenties feel that they are in an ‘in-between stage’ of life. Around 47% of 19- to 21-year-olds still live with their parents and only 7% live with a husband or wife at this age. According to a report by Pew Research, 72% of all adults over 18 were married in 1960 compared to only 51% now.

Looking at your neighbors reveals much about the changing economic demographics. Seattle is experiencing a 12% annual growth in tech jobs. In the late 80s, 52% of real estate buyers were married, while now only 40%, observe Seattle condo agents. The average age of the first-time buyer is now 33, about the start of the Millennial generation.

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Street Smart

My father sells insurance and my brother equities. I am learning zero about salesmanship in college. Why are there no courses that teach anything useful?

You are a step ahead with your question. When you get your first job, that is when you realize much of your coursework did not teach useable skills. Take the bigger picture, you did learn to think and write. If you enter the sales field, you have the education to help you master it. However, many argue that almost all work entails sales, communication and persuasion. Salesmanship should be taught at college, just like English Composition 101. This is why we think your question deserves an answer.

The job market has changed in recent years and students are entering a more competitive environment. In the past, unemployed graduates could find high-paying jobs in fields requiring no degree. A study by the Economic Policy Institute revealed that a shortage of well-paying, non-degree jobs resulted in graduates accepting positions such as bartender or shop assistant.

Additionally, more positions now require a degree, especially wholesale-manufacturing sales and retail-sales supervisory roles. There is a huge demand for sales workers and many students will migrate into this area.

The first real-world scenario most students face involving sales is their first job interview. Your resume is a sales document and your conduct during the interview is your sales pitch.

Nearly every industry that a graduate enters will have a sales division as a core part of its operations. Many CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have sales experience and understand that the success of the company is dependent on salesmanship. This is not limited to traditional roles of corporate clients and buyers. Governmental departments require sales skills to negotiate budgets, projects, capital expenditure and staff benefits.

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Wheel of Fortune

I will be meeting my new roommate when we arrive at college. My protective parents really want to know more about her. What should we do so everyone feels safe?

Your parents are right to want to know more, and your question is pertinent for most students that will be sharing a room with a stranger for the first time. Leaving home and going to college means that it is highly unlikely you will be lucky enough to be sharing with friends. A little background information on your new roommate would go a long way in easing the minds of both you and your parents.

It has been argued that the college should run background checks on students during the application process, but there are counter arguments against it. Would running a criminal record check prevent any future crimes? It is doubtful. Are university administrators qualified to make out-of-court decisions on people and is the college admissions process the correct place to do it?

Others argue that safety on campus should be a priority as should student well-being and this could be improved with more stringent background checks during application. The college does require checks on academic credentials so why not criminal ones also? Either way, it is likely that you will need to do your own research to glean the information you want in order to check on your roommate.

With a little personal information such as full name, registered address and employment details you can complete the research online yourself. To make your roommate feel more at ease, you could exchange details as she may also want to check up on you.

Once you have the basics, you can go online to check criminal history at the local courthouse which has files on crimes and legal cases for the local area. The National Center for State Courts will have contact information for the right court department.

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Valedictorian Vicissitude

I am not at the top of my class. Do I have a chance to make any real money in my career?

We are all wondering the same thing, is the world ruled by Harvard dropouts who create mega-online companies? Here is good news for you. A study of over seven hundred American millionaires showed their average college GPA was 2.9. Do students graduating with top grades have assurance of financial success?

Researchers following valedictorians into professional life after college generally found that they all attained the traditional markers for success. Top of the class grades and the majority landing top-tier professional jobs maybe the case, but very few went on to hit the bigtime of professional fame and wealth.

It appears that the traits that set you up for success at high school and college are not the same as those that lead individuals to world-changing breakthroughs or the creation of billion-dollar enterprises. Schools and colleges generally reward those that consistently do what they are told and life rewards those that do exactly the opposite.

Conformity, diligence and willingness to bow to the system creates valedictorians, which is exactly what the college wants. They find out what the professor wants and they provide it consistently. In a closed academic system the rules are very clear and the system is rigid. Out in the real world, life’s rules are not so clear, and those not strictly abiding by them can be at an advantage.

Many valedictorians admit that they were not the smartest students in the class, but simply the hardest working. Some acknowledged that they gave teachers what they wanted and did not really absorb the material.

Many of the world’s most influential thinkers came up with a radically new solution to a political, technical or scientific problem. Those that break the mold and think out-of-the-box are more likely to be the ones starting a new social media platform or Google.

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Student Start-Up

I have many business ideas and I think at least one is good. What are the odds on starting a successful, new business in college?

Your question got everyone’s attention, thinking you had another Facebook. Besides the well-known Internet start-ups from Harvard alum, many non-online businesses have been started by students. Since the newest billionaires have online ventures, the others do not get as much media attention. However, finding many success stories, we want to give you an overview of what you can do and how to get help.

College is not just a path to education, it is supposed to prime you for the workplace. This is the environment to test new ideas and set-up a new business. You have nothing to lose: no overhead, no possessions and few commitments, compared to later in life.

You are now surrounded by a network of like-minded and enthusiastic students. Use the college network as source of potential partners, assistants, and financial investors. Discuss your ideas, searching for compliments and critiques to develop your business plan.

Students are fickle, so if you can sell them on your idea, it is a good sign of a viable new product or service, recalls the founder of Brimley’s White Glove. The other students are networking too and can introduce you to other contacts. Of course, the opposite can happen, but you are in college to learn.

Take advantage of campus resources, like high-speed internet or meeting rooms, you have paid for the privilege. Do research now at the libraries, outside of the campus research is not free.

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Animal House

I am a brother in a popular campus fraternity. I read some disturbing stories in the news. If there is an accident at a frat house, who is legally responsible?

I was a brother at Zeta Beta Tau, so I appreciate the significance of your question. Regardless of intentions, you can be sure an accident will eventually occur at the house. Whether a slip-and-fall or a full-blown, alcohol-fueled incident, it will happen when you place unsupervised teenagers together. I will overview the legal issues and suggest what your fraternity should do to protect itself.

The Greek system of fraternities and sororities is a mainstay of campus life. They are the second-largest provider of student housing, after University-owned residences. Also, colleges literally market on-campus Greek life as a reason to enroll. We now get to mention the movie Animal House. While a farcical snapshot of life in the sixties, it did reveal the university’s unsuccessful struggle to control the fraternities.

Here are the most common injuries at frat houses: 23% from assault, 15% sexual assault, 10% slip-and-fall, 9% fall from a height, 7% auto related, and 7% hazing. Of course, hazing has attracted the most media attention lately.

Enter the lawyers. The first major case was in 1991, when the courts found the university liable for a fraternity incident. Fraternities on the campus were warned about rowdy behavior. The school knew the fraternities were not heeding the warning. When the college did nothing, it made them liable. It seems the more you warn the fraternities, the more liable you become for their activities.

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Data Dilemma

I completed some forms when I visited student health. The reason for my treatment is confidential. Now, I am wondering are my records completely private and secure?

This question reveals a disturbing truth about privacy in medical records held by school health services. We must inform you that your privacy rights depend on which law governs the health service provider. Even then, there are notorious loopholes in the law.

Let us introduce the alphabet soup of FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This original 1974 law typically applies to most college medical records. Then in 2000, a new law HIPAA, the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, was enacted to cover some college medical records. University Law Professor Guest Pryal wrote, “...compared with HIPAA, FERPA is about as protective as cheesecloth”. It is a challenge to identify which law applies, in which situation. Here is an overview.

In general terms, HIPAA gives you the right of medical privacy from the school and your parents. FERPA allows your parents access to your records. If you are an over 18-year-old student, your records are securely protected under HIPAA. Now, if you are treated by a student health service provided through a university, your records fall under the looser FERPA rules. Your absolute privacy has been lost. If you require in-patient treatment, rather than just a clinic visit, your records now fall under HIPAA.

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Driving Blind

There was a report that a research program for self-driving cars was approved for New Jersey. While I appreciate that my generation is witnessing the advent of revolutionary technology, I also feel that these cars will never be safe on the road. Read this and tell me whether am I right or wrong.

We typically receive questions and work to answer them. You have already done our job, making a persuasive argument against driverless cars. I will take your ideas and present them here, with thoughts and responses from industry observers.

A driverless car receives data from sensors throughout the car. While manufacturers vary in their approach, data can be collected from a roof-top mount, sensors built into the body of the car, and/or video cameras. Let us say you are on the highway, travelling at 55 mph. A newspaper or rubbish riding on the air lands on the sensor. I can name many other examples of something landing on or outright destroying the sensor. If the car is blinded, how can it react safely on the highway?

Experts have a name for this: redundancy. Loss of any one or two systems will not compromise the car’s performance. The future of driverless cars also includes networking, as all cars within a vicinity or network will share data with each other via wireless communication. Even cars with drivers are being equipped with networking capability and will make use of the technology, predicts transportation experts at Easy Car Shipping. The driver benefits from this information feedback with advanced braking systems and other warnings.

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Read Me My Rights

I believe college students are targeted by police, probably for good reasons. What should I know when dealing with police?

All college students think about this, hopefully few are actually in these situations. It should be no surprise that the leading cause of arrest is drug- and alcohol-related offenses, with over 45K annually on campuses. Here are the rights you should know.

The first misconception most students have is that the campus cops have no real power, they are not real cops. This largely depends on the college. Most of them contract state or local police to provide additional security on campus. This means that they have full, official police authority to stop, search, question and arrest suspects on campus or off.

Some campuses employ private security firms, which have limited powers. These are usually distinguished by their uniforms. The limits of their authority depend on university policy and should be understood by students on campus.

Searches are subject to the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from search and seizure without probable cause. However, a perfunctory weapons pat down is usually justifiable.

Campus police or security do not generally have the right to enter and search your room or dorm. Under the Constitution, you have a reasonable expectation of privacy for where you live, whether it is a dorm or rented house. Searches are subject to consent or a warrant. However, if the accommodation is on campus, it is private property and maybe subject to different rules. These should be stipulated in your rental contract. Campus security may have the right to enter all university premises without warrants, warn criminal defense attorneys.

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