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Notre Dating’ discussed

Ann-Marie Woods | Friday, November 30, 2007

Boy meets girl. Boy and girl date. Boy gives girl a ring by spring semester of their senior year. Welcome to “Notre Dating.”

Raising prevalent questions not often discussed in an open forum, the Gender Relations Center (GRC) focused on how single-sex dorms and parietals affect gender relations at Notre Dame in the “Notre Dating Series” Wednesday night in the Coleman-Morse Center lounge.

Gender Relations Center director Heather Rakoczy moderated the event and led the discussion along with the GRC’s FIRE starters.

The FIRE starters, whose acronym stands for “Finding Identity Relationships Equality,” are student peer educators who facilitate greater awareness, discussion and solutions to gender issues on campus.

The program began with a discussion comparing “the culture around dating and relating” at Notre Dame to that of high school. Students in attendance were able to voice thoughts and concerns about specific gender issues on campus, specifically with dating and single-sex dorms.

Many described varying experiences in high school, but most students shared similar stories about Notre Dame. Students spoke of a “hook-up culture” and pervasive ideas and examples of “people searching for ‘the one’ and a ‘ring by spring'” and said the single-sex dorms and parietals seem to foster these strained attitudes and interactions between the sexes.

While weighing both the good and bad aspects of dorm life at Notre Dame, students seemed to agree with the unique sense of community dorm life promotes within sexes.

“Same-sex dorms perpetuate being all together as females or all together as males,” which can help foster great relationships and bonds with those of the same sex, FIRE starter Jordy Brooks said.

However, the negative effects on gender relations were considered in both the small group discussions and within the panel of FIRE starters, which evaluated the tension and awkward relations between males and females on campus.

“You don’t get an in-between – guys are here for dating, girls are here for friends,” and vice versa, FIRE starter Mackay Gunn said.

The poor gender relations can be seen in the single-sex groups of students in the dining halls, the labored interactions between the opposite sexes at dorm parties and dances and the lack of dating on campus, students said.

In addition, students discussed the topic of parietals in terms of its positive and negative influences on campus life.

While parietals “force us to learn how to set boundaries and foster community,” many students feel as though parietals “sexually charge” opposite sex interactions on campus, Gunn said.

The midnight or 2 a.m. time limit placed on contact between the sexes within the dorms means parietals are “encouraging hookups and discouraging friendships,” sophomore Chrissy Andrews said.

With this forum and others to follow, the GRC hopes to propose “alternatives to help improve gender relations with same and different sexes,” FIRE starter Brad Mattan said.

The GRC hopes to work toward more natural interactions among students on campus by encouraging social group interaction, “actual” dating, improved 24-hour space, continued discussions on the topic and increased communication between the sexes.