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Resolve the double standard

Mark Sonnick | Wednesday, April 24, 2013

As a graduating senior, I would like to thank Notre Dame for helping me grow immensely as a person these past four years. There is no doubt one of the most special things about this place is its residential life, and I have loved living on campus. Living in a single-sex dorm has given me close, fraternal friendships that will last for the rest of my life. There is only one thing I would change about the residential life on this campus: the double standard in men’s and women’s residence halls.
This past weekend, I heard music from parties cascading out of open men’s dorm windows onto North Quad. Such gatherings are ubiquitous in men’s dorms but not permitted in women’s dorms. As a result, women who attend parties become dependent on men. They are forced into situations in which they have little control over what is going on. This is an undesirable situation that can have dangerous consequences, especially when drugs or alcohol are involved. I believe resolving the party double standard would increase the safety of students on campus.
The party double standard is indicative of an overall cultural difference between men’s and women’s dorms. When I visit a women’s dorm, people stare at me as I walk down the hall. The resident assistants jingle their keys to make their presence known as they patrol the hallways. If it is a football weekend or the night of an SYR, I have had to forfeit my identification card at the door because I am a man. Although I am technically allowed to be present, it is clear I am the subject of intense suspicion. No wonder whenever I go to Mass in a women’s dorm, there is only one other man in the room – the priest.
The environment in men’s dorms is more welcoming. There is no key jingling or forfeiting of identification cards. As a result, women come to men’s dorms much more frequently than men come to women’s dorms. Just this past weekend at Siegfried Hall Sunday Mass, there were a large number of women in the congregation. Our rector noted how he enjoys “being with you guys and gals” when we celebrated the anniversary of his ordination at the end of Mass.
Many of my friends are resident assistants and I do not mean to criticize their work. The resident assistants are simply following their rectors’ orders. The rectors have wide authority over the culture in their dorms, so any change on this issue is going to have to come from them. I would like to pose this question to the rectors of Notre Dame: Where does the cultural difference between men’s and women’s dorms fit into our University’s Christian ministry? To be sure, the rules being enforced are based on the teachings of the Church. But the discrepancy with which they are enforced leads to an environment laden with danger and suspicion – the antithesis of Christ.

Mark Sonnick
Siegfried Hall