Of private and collegiate morality

by Kathleen van Schaijik

I think the dilemma posed by Joanna Bratten in the last issue of the Concourse would go away if she framed it differently. In truth, there is no conflict between a Catholic university’s call to foster the moral well-being of its students and the students’ right to privacy. On the contrary, schools who do least to “interfere with students’ private lives,” do most to ensure that their students have no protection whatsoever against the aggressions of the shameless. Only think of dorm-room date-rape. And I don’t know how many times I’ve heard stories of girls who were forced to flee their rooms night after night because the roommate’s boyfriend was sleeping over, again. Then there are the notorious co-ed bathrooms at some secular colleges. A guy I know once told me a story of his first day on campus. He was standing at a urinal—using the urinal—when a young women came up to him and began a friendly conversation: “So, where are you from?”

These examples go to show how wrong-headed it is to imagine that fewer rules means more privacy on college campus. It would be much easier to make a case for exactly the opposite.

I think the difficulty comes in with assuming that when the college makes rules regarding morality it is necessarily doing so in loco parentis. I agree with Ms. Bratten that university officials should not pose as parents. They have vis-a-vis their students nothing like the rights or duties parents have to oversee the well-being of their children. But it does not follow from this that they have no moral authority at all, nor that any regulations beyond those against property damage must aim at controlling the private lives of their students.

Every university should consider itself obliged to foster an atmosphere that is conducive to intellectual pursuits. That implies insisting on such things as decency, order and spaces of silence. Every Catholic university is further obliged to foster an atmosphere of lively faith, in which the religious life of the mind can best flourish. That implies honoring God, offering the sacraments, encouraging prayer and providing protections against evil influences. The leader of a school like ours does well to say to its students, “Your soul is in your own hands, but this campus is in mine. And as for me and my university, we will serve the Lord.”

Of course, what this means practically, rule by rule, is question of prudence. Personally, I’m against permission slips, but for closed dorms. (I mean single-sex dorms wherein in opposite sex friends may visit only during designated open-hours—like we find at FUS.) But it would be good to hash it our further next year.

issue cover

Related articles:

Same issue

The importance of engaging questions about our campus culture, Mark Fischer Professionalism—primary or secondary?, Susan Hunt The Nature, Purpose and Value of Public Discourse, Franciscan University Student Forum Prize announcements, the editors The will and the intellect are inseparable, Martha L. Blandford Preparing students to compete in the global economy, Peter Cole Education not limited to the mind, Susan C. Fischer According to the Tradition, education aims beyond the intellect, Matthew Fish Happy & sad, Kathleen van Schaijik Oxford gaining on Shakspere, Kathleen van Schaijik Of private and collegiate morality, Kathleen van Schaijik Newman, education and context, Kathleen van Schaijik Witnesses to Faith in the face of death, Kathleen van Schaijik Viva the class of ‘99!, Kathleen van Schaijik A prize winning physicist out of his depth, Kathleen van Schaijik A positive psychology, Kathleen van Schaijik How to become a leader, Kathleen van Schaijik Campus politics, Kathleen van Schaijik Thanksgiving, Kathleen van Schaijik

Same topic: in loco parentis

Same author

I,1 NFP, by itself, does not compromise the marriage vocation I,2 What is a ‘real’ Catholic education? I,3 Orthodox not paradox I,4 How does a university evangelize? I,4 NFP and connaturality I,5 Thomism and intellectual freedom I,7 Keeping our worship in step with ‘what the Spirit is saying’ to FUS II,1 Can charismatics and traditionalists peacefully coexist? II,1 The horror of polygamy and the persistence of chauvinistic theories in Catholic academia II,2 The challenge of the Concourse: discussion without (much) contention II,3 When old ideas are breaking up II,4 Why the polygamy problem is not as passe as it appears: Kathleen van Schaijik responds to critics II,9 Why ‘charismatic spirituality’ belongs at the heart of our communal life III,1 What is the University Concourse? III,1 How not to help households III,3 Silence betokens ... What? III,4 The freedom of stricture III,5 What were households meant to be? III,5 Different degrees of authority IV,1 Love Never Leaves IV,2 Faith and Reason IV,5 A different perspective on the modesty question IV,6 Strangers to the world V,1 New face, same spirit V,3 The ‘Stratford man’ and the Shakespearean canon: no match at all V,4 Bringing the masses from starvation to full strength V,6 Branching out through Christus Magister V,6 Kathleen van Schaijik replies to John Doman on Shakespeare V,7 A Catholic critique of a current notion of courtship VI,1 The evil of exorcising judgement VII,1 Jump Start VII,1 Abusing NFP VII,1 It’s not the Vatican, it’s the laity III,6 Last words (for now) III,6 A suggestion regarding Extraordinary Ministers III,6 Catholic teaching on capital punishment III,6 A final thought on the household issue III,6 What is our mission, really? III,6 What if Shakspere wasn’t Shakespeare? III,6 Clinton’s sorry legacy III,6 Evolution III,6 Intimidated? Please don’t be. III,6 A gift for the graduates of ‘98 III,6 A point of policy III,6 A point of principle III,6 A word of thanks IV,7 Happy & sad IV,7 Oxford gaining on Shakspere IV,7 Of private and collegiate morality IV,7 Newman, education and context IV,7 Witnesses to Faith in the face of death IV,7 Viva the class of ‘99! IV,7 A prize winning physicist out of his depth IV,7 A positive psychology IV,7 How to become a leader IV,7 Campus politics IV,7 Thanksgiving V,8 Fr. Michael’s achievement V,8 Charity may be severe V,8 On the other side of the same coin V,8 The Weimar Republicans V,8 Drawing out an analogy V,8 Beware of economic Puritanism V,8 How to support the Concourse by buying books V,8 Shakespeare debate update V,8 What the education debate is and isn’t about V,8 Dear Class of 2000 V,8 Thanksgiving