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Extend parietals, save your soul

Lenny Meehan | Friday, April 18, 2008

The other weekend, while preparing for a delicious dining hall dinner and pretending to try to do homework, I overheard a conversation between a student of the University of Michigan and the student with which he was staying.

While I wasn’t listening very intently, I couldn’t help but catch some commentary on the difference in policies between the two schools. “Wait, you mean to tell me that you can’t have girls in your dorm past 2 a.m.?” the Michigan student inquired. “That’s so [insert derogatory adjective here]. How the hell do you get laid?”

Now, I have come to expect such remarks from visitors; I receive them all the time from my friends back home. What I did not expect, however, was the response from the Notre Dame student: “Yeah, we all hate [parietals]. It’s by far the worst part of going to school here.”

People ask me all the time why I chose Notre Dame out of all of the possible University choices. There are various reasons I give, all of which are true: the emphasis on academics, the sense of community, the strength of the athletic programs.

One of the biggest reasons for me, though, is the conservative Catholic background. The fact that religion is integrated into every part of this university makes students kinder to one another and provides a greater atmosphere of trust and understanding. No one is criticized for going to Mass because half the student population goes to Mass. There is very rarely any crime on campus; I feel as though I can safely leave my bookbag in the cubby holes outside the dining hall without risk of theft.

However, one cannot pick and choose Catholic values to follow. I know several people who consider themselves devout Catholics, yet have openly admitted to being sexually active. Any true Catholic knows that premarital sex is very much against religious teachings, but it seems that religion is consistently cast aside in favor of convenience and lust. Enter the University of Notre Dame.

Here, the institution has the ability to regulate the actions of its students, and to a certain extent, it does. We all know that premarital sex is prohibited by duLac, and that parietals prevent members of the opposite sex in any dorm past midnight, or 2 a.m. on weekends. Their policies have reduced the amount of debauchery compared to other schools, and I applaud them for that.

But is enough being done? It is no secret that casual sex is abundant on campus, despite the University guidelines. Students either ignore parietals, or they merely work around them, committing the sin earlier in the evening instead.

By contrast, examine the service academies such as Navy and Air Force, which practice the strictest of disciplines with regards to cross-gender interaction. In order to prevent any “extra-social” behavior, guys and girls are never allowed to be in the same dorm room if the door is closed. Extreme? A bit, but it gets the job done.

Now, I’m not saying that duLac should adopt a policy like the service academies. However, the University does have a Catholic identity to maintain, and it cannot be denied that the current rules in place don’t completely fulfill their purpose. Something needs to be done to show the world that Notre Dame is a true Catholic institution that does not simply look the other way when it comes to premarital sex.

My proposal: extend the restricted hours of parietals. Parietals are an excellent way to prevent sexual relations, particularly after events such as dorm parties where inebriation is inevitable. If parietals were to begin two hours earlier (10 p.m. on weekdays, midnight on Friday and Saturday), this would serve to further reduce overly intimate situations. Unless a couple has intentions of having sex, there is no reason why they can’t hang out in a public place.

Every dorm has a 24-hour space, and there are plenty of other places to be past parietals such as Reckers or LaFortune. Not only that, but this change only adds two hours to the system already in place and wouldn’t change much as far as gender relations are concerned. Sure, it would be inconvenient, but what is a minor hassle compared to our students’ immortal souls?

Now, I realize that the extension of parietals will probably never happen. Many people think that Notre Dame “imposes” its Catholic viewpoints too much as it is, and of course students that are sexually active will be adamantly against my proposal. However, something needs to be done to prevent the casual sex on this campus, regardless of how inopportune it seems at first for the students.

In a world full of sin, it is essential for a Catholic university to promote its values, and that includes abstinence.

Lenny Meehan is a junior computer science major. He can be contacted at jmeehan@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer