John Garvey, the president of Catholic University in Washington D.C., recently announced in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, that Catholic will be phasing out co-ed dorms next year. Here is a blurb from the Inside Higher Ed report on Catholic’s decision:
In making his case, President John Garvey notes the university’s moral obligations and, to a lengthier extent, also cites research showing that students who live in single-sex housing arrangements are less likely to engage in risky behavior like binge drinking and casual sex. He also writes that these behaviors have negative impacts on mental health and academic performance. The transition will only affect incoming classes, so current Catholic students won’t have to move into single-sex housing.
Quoting Aristotle, Garvey says that virtue “makes us aim at the right mark, and practical wisdom makes us take the right means.”
“If he is right, then colleges and universities should concern themselves with virtue as well as intellect,” Garvey said. Hence, he reasons, single-sex housing.
Even though officials from the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International could not recall another institution that has returned from coed housing to single-sex dorms, and 90 percent of colleges have coed dorms, they said it makes sense that a Roman Catholic University would revert to single-sex housing because such decisions typically reflect an institution’s philosophy. “Introducing a coed facility was pretty darn dramatic for that particular campus,” said Jill Eckardt, director of housing at Florida Atlantic University and president of ACUHO-I. “When you think about the Roman Catholic church, you know, they’re not for premarital sex and hooking up. That’s not part of their doctrine. Not everybody who goes to Catholic is Catholic, but that is part of their mission and vision.”
In an interview Tuesday, Garvey said the real reason for the change was moral, not statistical; the research was simply another reason to do it. The announcement also wound up being the culmination of a year of meetings, events and performances exploring intellect, virtue and Catholic identity. “This conversation about life in residence halls and about drinking and sex and so on was all part of that,” he said. “In my thinking about it, it’s got a lot more to do with my wife’s and my being the parents of five children whom we’ve sent to college … and seeing the kind of life” that students lead.
I am glad to see that Catholic University has chosen to strengthen its religious identity by going in this direction. The Inside Higher Ed article makes it sound as if Catholic’s decision is strange and unusual. Perhaps it is unusual to move from co-ed dorms back to same-sex dorms, but many Catholic colleges and universities (as well as many non-Catholic church-related colleges and universities), including the University of Notre Dame, have resisted the move to co-ed dorms.
But not everyone is so thrilled about Catholic’s decision.
Today’s Inside Higher Ed reports that a law professor at George Washington University is going to sue Catholic University for violating the District of Columbia’s Human Rights Act which prohibits discrimination in “employment, housing and commercial space, and public accommodations on the basis of sex and other factors like race, religion and marital status.” Here is a taste of the IHE report:
Banzhaf likens Catholic’s move to a “separate but equal” scenario. “Suppose a university decided that there would be less racial tension if all the blacks were in a black dorm, all the whites were in a white dorm,” Banzhaf said. “Each one is, quote, getting their own dormitory, and maybe some of them would be happier that way. But surely no one would suggest that it’s lawful.” The statute does not require that a certain population be disadvantaged for an action to be illegal; the simple act of segregating the genders is enough, Banzhaf said.
What do you think?