Single-Sex Dorms Right for Catholic University; Quelling Sexual Activity and Binge Drinking Comports with Religious Identity
Byline: Patrick J. Reilly, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
President John Garvey of the Catholic University of America (CUA) got it exactly right and set an important example when he announced plans last week to shift entirely to single-sex dorms. Not only is the action consistent with the university's Catholic mission - and arguably necessary for that reason alone - it is equally a matter of common sense. There is a wealth of accumulating social-science data that confirms the terrible, lifelong impact that the college party lifestyle can have on bright young men and women.
CUA is setting an example for all college educators and especially those in Catholic higher education.
Sadly, many Catholic colleges and universities are not so different from their secular counterparts with regard to campus life. Few Catholic campuses today offer only single-sex residences, although many make it an option for a minority of students, usually freshmen. At CUA, all students have had the option of single-sex dorms, but just six of the university's 17 residence halls and 25 modular housing units are currently restricted to men or women.
Mr. Garvey is changing that. In the fall, all incoming freshmen with the exception of honors students will live in single-sex dorms - four halls for women, three for men. Another four single-sex residences will be reserved for upper-level students, doubling the number this year.
It won't stop there: The incoming class of 2015 will never have the option of coed dorms, as CUA will expand its single-sex housing each year until coed arrangements are no longer tolerated at the U.S. bishops' flagship university.
On the one hand, the change clearly is related to the university's religious convictions. CUA is a Catholic institution led by several cardinals and bishops, which awards Vatican-approved theology degrees. Since Pope John Paul II issued Ex corde Ecclesiae, a 1990 document defining Catholic higher education, college leaders and bishops have been working to renew the Catholic identity that was greatly compromised over the past 50 years.
But providing a wholesome living arrangement is a public health concern regardless of religious convictions. Colleges, government agencies and health policy experts have been struggling for years to reduce underage drinking on campuses by implementing orientation programs, banning alcohol sales and advertisements, offering alternative entertainment, etc. Sexually transmitted diseases are a serious health crisis among college students; the Centers for Disease Control and prevention estimates that nearly one in four college students has an STD.
In a forthcoming report for the Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education, a division of the Cardinal Newman Society, sociologists Anne Hendershott and Nicholas Dunn warn of serious psychological, spiritual and physical damages that can result from the college hookup culture. …