Catholic University of America plans return to single-sex dorms

8 16 2010 Garvey CNA CUA president John Garvey

Catholic University of America plans to return to single-sex dormitories to reduce binge drinking and the “culture of hooking up,” university president John Garvey has announced.

“Next year all freshmen at The Catholic University of America will be assigned to single-sex residence halls. The year after, we will extend the change to the sophomore halls,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “It will take a few years to complete the transformation.”

The intellect and virtue are connected and influence one another, he said, and this means that colleges and universities should concern themselves with virtue as well as intellect.

“The goals we set for ourselves are brought into focus by our moral vision,” Garvey explained, deeming binge drinking and “hooking up” to be “the two most serious ethical challenges college students face.”

Nationally, more than 90 percent of college housing is now co-ed.

However, 41.5 percent of students in co-ed dorms report weekly binge drinking, compared to 17.6 percent in single-sex housing. Another 55.7 percent of students in co-ed housing report having had a sexual partner in the last year, compared to 36.8 percent in single-sex dorms. Students in co-ed dorms are more than twice as likely to have had three or more sex partners.

Garvey said it was no surprise sex is more common in co-ed dorms, but he expressed surprise about the drinking.

“I would have thought that young women would have a civilizing influence on young men. Yet the causal arrow seems to run the other way. Young women are trying to keep up—and young men are encouraging them (maybe because it facilitates hooking up),” he said.

The problems these create are also significant, Garvey reported.

Alcohol-related accidents are the leading cause of death for young adults 17-24. Binge drinking students are 25 times more likely to do things like miss class, fall behind in school work, engage in unplanned sexual activity and get in trouble with the law. These students also cause problems for others, including physical and sexual assault and property damage.

The effects of “hooking up” include a doubled rate of depression among young women, while sexually active young men do more poorly in their academic work.

“And as we have always admonished our own children, sex on these terms is destructive of love and marriage,” Garvey wrote.

Returning to single-sex residences will probably cost more money, the university president said, as there are a few necessary architectural adjustments and the university won’t be able to let the ratio of men and women vary from year to year.

“But our students will be better off.”

The university has proposed other changes in residency practices in its report on the application of “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” Pope John Paul II’s 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education.

Proposals include the conversion of two rooms in each residence hall into a residence for a priest or consecrated religious, and the conversion of several rooms in order to add a chapel to each dorm.

The university notes in its report that all the proposals will require it to build more residence hall space and that it needs more funding to do so.

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Other ways Garvey would like to increase the Catholic identity of the school include hiring more Catholic faculty members and building on-campus housing for priests pursuing graduate level degrees.

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