Catholic University thinks rules keep students from booze and sex

Catholic University is bringing back single-sex dorms starting with next year’s freshman class. Why? To reduce binge drinking and hooking up, University President John Garvey said this week in The Wall Street Journal. The right place for a CU editorial for sure.

Garvey said studies show that students drink more, and have more sexual partners, when they live in co-ed dorms. His university’s job is to train students in the virtuous life, and certain virtues are best learned and practiced living apart.

He has good intentions, I’m sure, and some 18- and 19-year-old students will be attracted to single-sex living. But I’m not convinced he’ll achieve the results he seeks. Nothing in my 20 years of experience writing about young people suggests that reverting to the old days of male and female dorms will substantially reduce the frequency of drinking or casual sex.

Moreover, his explanation for the change has a let’s-protect-the-women ring to it that is decidedly out of step with the gender roles and expectations of today’s young women and young men…

Author Liz Funk, a New York resident in her 20s who was raised as a Roman Catholic, attended a co-ed college with co-ed dorms. She remembers, “Without the presence of guys, my friends and I had no problem throwing back three to eight drinks in a sitting. And on the occasions where accidents happened … it was always in an all-female context.” No doubt the same in many all-guy drinking bouts… The phrase, “I must have been drunk” comes to mind.

None of this is to say that Catholic University, like other schools, shouldn’t be talking to students about drinking, sex and having fun in a way that is consistent with the school’s values. Students flock to such discussions, depending on who leads them, and more schools — non-religious as well as religious — should offer them.

Garvey ignores what to me has been one contribution of co-ed dorms: the ease with which members of this generation relate to each other as friends, and the depth of their understanding of the opposite sex. I can’t help but believe those qualities will help sustain their intimate partnerships in the future.

This good Catholic official seems stuck into the same ignorance that afflicts his religion at root, its hierarchy, as a matter of course.

Ignore the realities of best practices grounded in modern knowledge – and you induce the same frustration, rejection and confrontation that continues to demolish all fundamentalist sects.