Campus Newspaper to School: Don’t Make Students Report Thanksgiving Travel Plans

The Columns campus newspaper at Missouri’s Westminster College is crying foul over a recent email requesting all students at the liberal arts school share their Thanksgiving travel plans with administrators.

The central question at the heart of the dispute:

Do schools have a right, or even an obligation, to know where their students are going and what they are doing during holiday breaks?

In a campus-wide email message sent earlier this month, Westminster dean of student life Stephanie Krauth explained, “Colleges and universities across the country have been thinking and concerned about student travel too, whether it is related to travel abroad, such as the recent outbreak of Ebola, or domestic travel, such as the recent missing student from Wartburg College in Iowa. A lot can happen when one travels, so we’re including a new process as we close for the Thanksgiving holiday. … Your travel plans don’t have to be set in stone, just let us know your approximate departure, arrival, & destination plans.” Ummmm.

Columns editor-in-chief Tim Aldred’s response: “No, thank you.In a spirited editorial, Aldred calls Krauth’s message “a vaguely panicked, vaguely insulting request to students.” He also points out its especially ugh-inducing paternalism: While students are being compelled to confirm their off-campus whereabouts this long weekend, faculty and staff are apparently free to go where they want, sans any self-reporting.


The thrust of Aldred’s well-written retort — headlined “Report My Thanksgiving Travel Plans? No, Thank You” — impressively manages to drop in shout-outs to Miranda rights and his mother only sentences apart. In his words:

“Where I go and what I do with my free time while I am on campus entails a certain amount of privacy. I don’t report to anyone and I don’t ask for approval. Off-campus, infinitely more so. Don’t mistake these for innocent questions, either. If somebody asked me where I had been, when I had left and when I got back, I’d be wary. If an institution asked me those questions in order to record them, process them and file them away somewhere, well, I’m starting to feel like I should have my Miranda rights read first. … I don’t need another level of supervision. I, too, am an adult [like Westminster faculty]. I, too, feel like my privacy is violated when I have to report where I am going to people I don’t know. I have emergency contacts so that the school doesn’t have to take care of me if I need help. And finally, if I get into a bind over break, rest assured I already have a mommy who will come running. Her name is Gloria.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

What do you think?


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