When Student Privacy Shouldn’t Be Private

May 21, 2009
By Cherry Crayton

Bob Kochersberger, an associate professor of English, draws from his own experiences with his son — a heroin addict and convicted felon who took his own life in 2007 — to wonder in the latest issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education what roles professors should play in the lives of their students at a time “when there’s widespread concern over privacy matters and the threat of litigation. . . . ” When a student goes to a professor and says he’s a drug addict, which is what recently happened to Kochersberger, for example, what should the professor do?

I was almost overwhelmed with emotions as I saw my son in this young man. . . . I agonized for a couple of days, feeling depressed and talking with family, friends, and my own therapist. What was my role here? Was I a university professor, mindful of students’ right to privacy and the need to keep my mouth shut? Did it even apply here? Or was I a bereaved parent who wanted to ignore the bureaucracy and try to squeeze some good from his child’s death?

I finally decided that I had to do something.

Read what Kochersberger decided here and why.

Kochersberger is a member of NC State magazine’s editorial advisory board, a journalism teacher and director of the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program. He’s written frequently about his son in publications such as the Columbia Journalism Review and penned a 2008 essay for The Chronicle on “The Healing Power of a Class.”

He’s a writing a memoir about his relationship with his son.

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