Nicholas Hahn III has a post up at Real Clear Religion entitled "Catholic U's Garvey Gets It Wrong." The article attacks the recent decision by Catholic University President John Garvey to institute single-sex dorms on campus. In the event, it is Hahn, not Garvey, who gets it wrong.
Hahn attributes a variety of motives to Garvey that are, putting it mildly, preposterous. Hahn writes, "Garvey's is a patronizing decision, as if to protect students from the sins they will surely encounter once they leave the Ivory Tower -- it is another attempt by university administrators to create an alternate universe that is a college campus. Garvey's response to dormitory debauchery is to say that the ideas of sexual purity and responsible behavior hold no water in the cultural battle. Garvey effectively has decided sin is more powerful than virtue."
In the first place, of course a college campus is an type of "alternate universe." It is not designed to produce products, nor profits, like a typical business. It is not even, if John Henry Newman is any guide, designed to produce Christians, although the culture of a campus may strengthen students' faith. A liberal arts education, like the kind I received at Catholic University, is designed to produce learned gentlemen and gentlewomen, some who will go on to become scholars but all of whom will learn how to think, how to assess and weigh evidence, how to integarte knowledge, how to assess value judgments. Just last week, the daughter of my cousin came to CUA's campus and she asked me what I thought of the education I had received. I told her that at CUA she will learn how to answer a question that is no longer even posed at many Ivy League schools: How did our civilization come to be where it is?
As for single sex dorms, I suspect President Garvey's decision did not, as Hahn suggests, come from a belief that sin is more powerful than virtue. (Although, in America, if you want to make a buck, sin has its undeniable value as a visit to any casino will quickly show.) President Garvey has a habit of walking around campus and talking to people. The other day, I was waiting for a friend to arrive on campus and I engaged two campus security officers in conversation. I asked them if they thought the single sex dorms would make much of a difference. They both agreed that where there is a will to evade the rules, there is a way, but both also said that they would prefer their daughters to be in a single sex dorm. Maybe they were being patronizing and maybe they were just being concerned parents. But, the conversation holds a clue, I suspect, and acting on no inside information, as to one of the reasons to adopt single sex dorms: Parents will love it.
Hahn says university administrators should "grow up" but I have met President Garvey and he seems plenty grown up to me. He also is intellectually refined enough to know that single sex dorms are not a cure-all for what ails our culture. I confess I like the idea of single sex dorms for their distinctiveness: You can find the co-ed variety at a million places, so why not be a little different. Or, in our polymorphous culture, are gender differences no longer to be tolerated? When Mr. Hahn gets pregnant, I will agree that gender no longer matters.