Letter from the Dean for Student Life

Dear Parent(s):

I welcome you to the Luther community; it is truly a wonderful place! The faculty and staff at Luther look forward to meeting and talking with new students and their parents. During this journey together, I hope to meet many of you and I welcome hearing from you about the hopes you have for your son or daughter.

We have several means to facilitate communication between the college and parents. One is the Facebook “Luther College Parents” group. This group allows parents of all Luther students to connect with one another in discussions and exchanges. Updates, important dates, announcements, photos and other interesting items will be periodically posted on the site by administrative offices. Go to Luther Parents on Facebook, and click on “Like” to join. Relevant information can be found at Luther’s parents website. I invite you to follow me on Twitter where I share information, resources, and general good news about Luther.   

Our community

Luther is committed to its students. In fact, they will never experience another time during their lives when there are as many people focused on their success! We are committed to helping students become effective information seekers, creative and imaginative problem solvers and opportunity creators, and effective communicators and community builders.

When students leave Luther after earning their degree, their next life stage will be one where they will need to possess the skills to discern, discover and analyze complex information. Students will need to be information seekers and lean into responsibilities. We hope to help them gain the confidence and capacity to make those steps inward and forward. In a constantly shifting and changing world, problems arise and solutions are needed. Students will need to have the skills to identify and use available resources, collaboratively solve problems and create opportunities. We want them to advance into agile, entrepreneurial contributors who can strategically align resources. Finally, our communities sorely need them! Students will need to communicate effectively, build networks and strengthen communities. They will build bridges across difference and disagreements, connect people to a common purpose and enhance and grow communities – work places, neighborhoods, faith communities, organizations and families.

The Student Life program partners with students to help them identify their strengths and discover their “higher calling” and how their unique gifts will be best used in a future career and in a life of service to their communities. Since a hallmark of a Luther College education is its residential nature, we expect students to live in on-campus residence halls all four years. Exceptions are only made for a limited number of juniors who apply to live off campus for their senior year.

Luther is an exceptional academic community and our expectations for students are high. Luther’s Honor Code guides their work in the classroom and we expect students to commit themselves fully to their academic program. You can help. We ask that you familiarize yourself with all academic regulations and the academic calendar (available on Luther’s website) and avoid making travel or vacation plans that interfere with classes and exams.

Challenges your student may face

Being a caring college community does not mean we deny the serious challenges facing young people today. Luther students will not be immune to larger societal problems such as the use and abuse of alcohol and drugs, violent behavior—including sexual assault—and other crises. Newly found independence and wanting to “try out” new behaviors means first-year college students may be at a heightened level of risk; this is especially true in the first six weeks of their academic career.

Alcohol and drug issues: 

Our wellness program and alcohol education staff realizes that most parents have concerns about alcohol and drug use and abuse. Alcohol.Edu is required for all first-year students as part of their first-year wellness course. This nationally respected tool will help your son or daughter consider more deeply choices regarding alcohol. I encourage you to visit the Century Council's website and to consider exploring conversations with your son or daughter about topics on the site, such as high-risk drinking. 

Most of our students are not of legal age, and therefore are not allowed to consume or have alcoholic beverages on campus, including in the first-year residence halls. You should know that Iowa law allows 19- and 20-year-olds to enter bars and coupled with lax enforcement by some local establishments, alcohol may be fairly easy for students to obtain. For many reasons, I encourage you to talk to your son or daughter about your expectations of them and the challenges and implications of alcohol (and other drug) use and the negative impact it can have on their lives. You should also be aware that Iowa has a zero tolerance for blood alcohol content on drivers under the age of 21 and recognizes a .08 blood alcohol level as the highest legal limit for people of legal age. Significant fines and legal sanctions generally follow just an arrest.

On campus, students are subject to disciplinary action for alcohol-related, disruptive behaviors. We employ a progressive model of accountability with a focus on health and safety. In most cases, parents can expect to be notified if their son or daughter has a second or third alcohol-related violation so they can join the college in evaluating the situation. Marijuana and illegal drug use on campus will be referred to local police officials immediately. In addition, students can be evicted from their residence hall rooms if they are found to be in possession or are intending to sell marijuana or other illegal drugs.

We work hard to discourage the abuse and illegal use of alcohol and drugs through our alcohol education program, the encouragement of alcohol-free social and recreational programs, and our Nena Amundson Lifetime Wellness program, which helps students and employees learn about and practice healthy lifetime habits. I appreciate your partnership in these efforts.

Other challenges: Luther also concentrates on educating students about other issues they might face as they begin the transition to interdependent adulthood. Educational programming regarding sexual assault, diversity issues, and gender-related topics are examples of issues explored. Luther’s Student Handbook has sections about alcohol, sexual abuse, and harassment issues. I encourage you to review these with your son or daughter.

Health services

Luther provides excellent health services for students here on campus. Our health service is open Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Appointments can be made with a physician during working hours. In addition, Decorah has two excellent private clinics and a very good local hospital and emergency room. Please check with your health insurance provider now regarding any limitations in services that your student might encounter, especially if Decorah is out of its service area. Luther does require all students to have health insurance.

Iowa’s smoking law

As of July 1, 2008, Iowa instituted a new “Smokefree Air Act.” Because of the stipulations of this law, our campus is completely smoke-free, both inside buildings, and in all outdoor areas owned by the college. If your son or daughter is a smoker, we want them to know about this.

“Greek”/Social organizations

Luther has several local, “Greek-letter” fraternities and sororities that are recognized by the college. These groups recruit in late spring and pledge new student members during the fall of their sophomore year. Fewer than 8 percent of our students participate in one of these organizations. However, I want you to be aware that a segment of campus participates in underground, unrecognized social groups. We have ongoing concerns with these groups particularly related to illegal and/or abusive alcohol use and the recruitment of first-year students. They usually do their own thing – off campus. The most widely known of these groups (all male) are: Pi Sigma Omicron (Pi Sigs), Theta Chi, Iota Eta Pi, Iota Sigma Omicron (ISOs), WIMI, and Rakeop.

Contacting you

Finally, I want to frame our policy regarding contacting parents. We believe college students are learning to be interdependent adults and we will usually work directly with them. It is not our practice to contact parents or guardians unless the sharing of a problem is necessary to protect the student or others from serious harm, or we need your help with a comprehensive plan to deal with the presenting concern. If your daughter or son has serious and/or frequent violations of Handbook regulations, or if your student is reluctant to obtain assistance for problem behaviors, we will share this information with you, usually with your student’s knowledge. In the case of medical emergencies, parents may be contacted with or without the student’s knowledge. Please ask your student to inform the college if your contact information changes.

In closing, your son or daughter is about to begin one of the most important experiences of their life. They will face newfound choices – most offering positively transformative results. But, there may be challenges – unexpected and/or predictable – that will test their resolve – and yours’. Trust the wisdom you have shared, the judgment you have helped them form and the character they possess. These qualities will guide your son or daughter through the years ahead as they discover, develop and become in the strong community of faith and learning at Luther College!

Corey Landstrom
Vice President and Dean for Student Life
[email protected] | @Lutherdeanland (Twitter)