Posted by: Fr. C. | August 9, 2011

A Note on Co-Ed Dorms

For you parents with children thinking about colleges (and grand-parents who wish to offer sound advice), Maggie Gallagher, Chairman of the National Organization for Marriage offers a good Christian analysis of the state of university housing.

The genesis of her story is the action by John Garvey, the new President of Catholic University, to return that to single sex dorms. She reports that, “Many feathers were ruffled. It is a measure of the unisex madness in which we have become enmeshed that a Catholic university’s decision to house unmarried young men and women in separate dorms could be described as ‘controversial.’”

Garvey announced his decision in a Wall Street Journal op ed. He cited his own experience as the father of five kids, and a handful of social science studies to affirm the obvious: When adolescents freed from the constraints of family life, are tossed into the same dorms, they are more likely to do dumb things. Garvey wrrote that, “Christopher Kaczor at Loyola Marymount points to a surprising number of studies showing that students in co-ed dorms (41.5%) report weekly binge drinking more than twice as often as students in single-sex housing (17.6%). Similarly, students in co-ed housing are more likely (55.7%) than students in single-sex dorms (36.8%) to have had a sexual partner in the last year–and more than twice as likely to have had three or more.”

Gallagher asks the intuitive question, “Do we really need social science data to demonstrate this? Apparently so.”

She cites a well-designed 2009 peer-reviewed study by Brian Willoughby and Jason Carroll, “The Impact of Living in Co-ed Resident Halls on Risk-taking Among College Students” which confirms Garvey’s sense of the situation. The study, published in the Journal of American College Health, relied on data from Project R.E.A.D.Y., a multi-site research project dedicated to investigating various aspects of emerging adulthood development.

The sample consisted of 510 unmarried undergraduate students recruited during the 2004–2005 academic year from five colleges– a small, private liberal arts college, a medium-sized, religious university, and three large public universities.  No surprise in the results:

Students living in co-ed housing were more likely than students living in gender-specific housing to binge drink , consume alcohol, have more permissive sexual attitudes, and have more recent sexual partners. On-campus housing environments impact college student risk behaviors.

You can read the full article at the blog of the Ruth Institute-a fearless defender of traditional marriage and family.

I would echo the author’s plaudits to Garvey for courage, as well as common sense. Catholic University apparently is the very first university in the history of United States to return to single sex dorms, after abandoning them to go coed for no particular reason in 1982.

Garvey wrote, “I believe that intellect and virtue are connected. They influence one another. Some say the intellect is primary. If we know what is good, we will pursue it. . . . The goals we set for ourselves are brought into focus by our moral vision.” Amen!

The question, then, is who is addressing these issues?  Certainly not liberal Protestant denominations and the colleges and universities they support.  In the coming months, it will be interesting to see how things line up on the issue and who has the stomach to push back against the spirit of the world.

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