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June 15, 2011 10:00 AM Catholic University Goes Back to Segregated Housing

By Daniel Luzer

Catholic University will apparently be returning to single-sex dormitories. As the university’s president, John Garvey, explains, it’s because he wants to cut down on drinking and sex on campus. This seems unlikely to work.

As he writes in a piece for the Wall Street Journal:

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.
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. It will take a few years to complete the transformation.

The evidence here is a little weak. How has Catholic been tracking incidents of “hooking up” since it started having co-ed housing in the 90s anyway? I’d think that was a private matter.

Even Kaczor’s information is a little questionable. Correlation does not mean causation. Since more than 90 percent of college housing is now co-ed, this entire binge drinking and sexual partners are really just college itself. The exceptions are self-selecting. Those students who don’t live in co-ed housing are probably there by choice, because they want to avoid drinking and sex in which normal college students are engaged. But if everyone has to live there these efforts won’t work.

Heidi Schlumpf writes at the The National Catholic Reporter that Garvey’s efforts also seem questionable:

Unless Garvey plans to return the entire university to 1950, I doubt this move will do much to curb either… practice. In fact, as others have pointed out, some of the worst binge drinking happens in single-sex men’s dorms, not to mention in single-sex sorority and fraternity houses.
But the “change” will sure position CUA as a place Catholic parents can feel “safe” sending their adult children. A brilliant PR move.
Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer