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College students are customers too

OPINION

(Reuters file photo )
May 21, 2013|By Hector Luis Alamo Jr., @hectorluisalamo | For RedEye

In terms of flexing your newly acquired adult muscles, college can really blow.

Yeah, for those who find themselves living somewhat independently after a sheltered childhood, college seems like a burst of freedom—late nights, customized class schedules, complete control of your free time. There's no one there to stop you from, say, eating cold pizza for brunch on Sunday and spending the rest of the day alternating between naps and YouTube videos.

Yet, in a lot of ways, college life isn't as unfettered as adulthood. You're supposed to be a young adult, but you're treated as an old adolescent. You still have plenty of juvenile restrictions, such as attendance policies and administrators barging into your dorm whenever they want—especially if you commit some abominable act, like lighting incense, in the room YOU pay for.

Within this new environment that's supposed to be down with personal development and discovery, the people apparently in charge—the administrators and the professors—become parents-away-from-parents.

In many ways, those built-in protections are necessary to help the transition to "the real world," but that spirit can go too far.

In fact, Gov. Quinn is mulling over a bill that would keep university administrators from obtaining access to students' social media accounts. I hope Quinn does the decent thing and protects a student's right to privacy, seeing how I wasn't even aware the right needed protecting.

College and universities tend to forget they're the service providers and students are the customers. Students pay the university (or are buried by debt trying) and, in return, the university does something for the students (namely, instructs them what to think).

As paying customers, university students should have certain guarantees that businesses—uh, I mean universities—will treat them like the full-fledged adults they are by respecting their individual rights to privacy.

College student are not children anymore, and if they wanted to be treated like children after high school, they would've just opted to get home-schooled through college, too.

But they had different plans for after graduation. They went off to college to become adults and discover themselves. Now they're paying people to help them along that journey.

If the school is getting paid (and if the students are risking living the rest of their lives broke and with terrible credit to show for it), then the school should do what it's getting paid to do and stay out of the baby-sitting business.

At least a baby-sitter never asked me for my Facebook password.

Hector Luis Alamo Jr. is a RedEye special contributor.

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