Back to the future? Reverting to single-sex accommodation

Is this really the solution?

Fascinating piece on Inside Higher Ed on a reversion to single sex accommodation at Catholic University:

“Life is Co-Ed” has become the unofficial rallying call of the Catholic University students unhappy and unconvinced by their president’s unprecedented decision to revert all dormitories to single-sex living quarters.

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John Garvey, president of Catholic, announced in June that the university would be phasing in single-sex residence halls, in an effort to curb binge drinking and casual sex. He said that the change would better align the university with its moral obligations as a Roman Catholic institution.

The decision to eliminate co-ed living to revert to single-sex living, which looks to be the first of its kind, has been the talk of the campus since it was enacted at the beginning of this semester, with opinion split almost 50/50 on the issue, students say. Administrators are phasing in the living policy with this year’s freshman class, with units for older students remaining co-ed. But that doesn’t mean its intended outcomes are coming to fruition. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, some students say.

On the face of it this looks like classic tabloid headline material – “Catholic University bans sex and drinking” – but there are some really significant issues here about the nature of the student experience, how far University regulation of student behaviour should reach and the extent to which there can or should be a religious dimension to regulation (inevitable at Catholic Universities but not fully replicated in church-founded institutions in the UK as far as I am aware).

However, the main issue here is whether such a policy will succeed in its aims of reducing binge drinking and casual sex. It strikes me as unlikely. Students are extremely inventive and resourceful individuals and I would be very surprised if single sex dorms have any impact (although it is not entirely clear how university officers are measuring casual sex rates).

2 thoughts on “Back to the future? Reverting to single-sex accommodation

  1. Does Nottingham have co-ed accommodation at its campus in Malaysia?

    Malaysian authorities, in an Islamic country with a religious understanding of human nature, probably have similar concerns to those of Catholic authorities.

    If you are disquieted over Catholic colleges reflecting those concerns, do you also reject compromise with Islamic concerns on your own campuses?

    • This is a really good point and well made. Cultural context is important here. I suppose my surprise is at what looks like a return to a historical practice.

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