The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Archaic double standards

| Monday, February 29, 2016

Perhaps the most unique, yet dismaying, thing about the Notre Dame is the horribly archaic way in which it treats men and women differently in its dorms. Unlike many universities, Notre Dame is Catholic. Unlike many universities, Notre Dame leans conservatively in its student body and certain decisions. Unlike many universities, almost all students remain in their freshman year dorm until at least the end of their junior years. Notre Dame is determined to be unique in ways unthinkable by many other top universities, and in many cases, this is a good thing. Many love the community of their dorm, or the spiritual nature of Notre Dame, or how quiet it gets after midnight. How differently Notre Dame treats its men’s and women’s dorms, however, cannot be endorsed.

Almost universally on Notre Dame’s campus, men’s dorms are much more lax in enforcement of rules than women’s dorms. In particular, alcohol consumption and parietals are rarely enforced in most male dorms and enforced almost to a fault in female dorms.

If someone is found drinking alcohol in a men’s dorm, the worst that will happen will probably be loss of alcohol. Parties are routinely held in the male dorms and can sometimes host hundreds of people. Sections become flooded with people and booming music. In contrast, most women at Notre Dame are almost afraid to throw even moderate sized parties in their dorms, and heaven help you if an RA finds you drinking liquor.

Similarly, parietals are almost nonexistent in most men’s dorms. Hall staff deliberately tries not to find women staying past parietals. If a woman is found staying hours after the forbidden deadline, there likely won’t be punishment for the parties involved. Meanwhile, if a man is found walking down the stairwell to exit a women’s dorm at 12:05 a.m., there almost certainly will be repercussions, sometimes severe. The staff of women’s dorms are known to track women who come in with men and then subsequently check their rooms to make sure that the guy has left after parietals.

Everyone can argue all day about whether parietals actually “build community,” as the University states. We can try to ignore that how differently men and women are treated in their respective dorms contributes to the horrid gender relations on campus. We can argue whether it is even worth it to argue about parietals or alcohol consumption in dorms; with how incredibly easy it is to get away with breaking the rules in guy’s dorms, why does it matter? And obviously there are exceptions; some male dorms are very strict, and some female dorms even slightly avoid the rules! And if it bothers someone that much, they can just move off campus!

It doesn’t matter that women can move off campus to avoid the incredibly unfair enforcement in their dorms. It doesn’t matter whether the university’s rules on parietals or dorm alcohol consumption build community. The problem is that the University’s administration is systematically declaring that men should act one way with regards to alcohol and sex, while women should act in another. I have gradually become more and more alarmed by this revelation as I have realized the full extent of it; that my school is so horribly backwards in one aspect of its thinking that it cannot bring itself to treat men and women the same way on the topics of alcohol and sex.

This revelation should be unacceptable to any student, any alumni, any faculty member, anyone even remotely associated with the University. For a university which strives to follow Catholic ideology, a religion which prides itself on doing unto others as you would have others do unto you, it is certainly treating its very own Notre Dame women extremely poorly. I certainly hope that any women at Notre Dame does not feel slighted by the way she is treated by the University, but I cannot possibly expect this of any woman here; I, a male, am livid. I can hardly imagine actually living in a women’s dorm.

The University can fix this. It will take a concentrated effort, however, from administration, current students and alumni. As a community, we must realize that women deserve to be treated the exact same way as their male peers. We must push this on the University. Domers cannot give the administration a free pass on this issue. We must hold the administration accountable for changing how parietals and alcohol consumption are handled in Notre Dame’s dorms. If that occurs, Notre Dame will destroy one of the few negative features about it. Notre Dame will retain its amazing and unique features: it will still be the same University we all love, but it will also be home to a happier and more comfortable community.

Andrew Pott


Feb. 10


The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Tags: , , ,

About Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor can be submitted by all members of the Notre Dame community. To submit a letter to the Viewpoint Editor, email viewpoint@ndsmcobserver.com

Contact Letter
  • Andrew, Thank-You my fellow future Alum.

    There are many ways in which Women and Men are treated differently on campus. The problem remains, as it has since the Fall of 1972 when we Women arrived: many in Administration feel it is better (in loco parentis) to “protect” Women from Men while allowing Men to behave like Boys. Just as it is with telling Women not to dress “sl_tty” and to travel in pairs at parties and “don’t do anything to entice boys”, as if a Boy-Man can’t be held responsible for his actions if he is “enticed” in any way.

    Sexism, of all kinds, has been alive and well at Notre Dame for decades – talk to young Women Faculty off record and you’ll hear an earful – and will for decades until the “Madonna-Wh_re” complex is eradicated entirely.

  • Johnny Whichard

    This is the kind of article that actually makes the Office of “Community Standards” come down harder on male dorms….not the smartest move on your part.

  • Cassidy Lynn

    Thank you so much for putting in words what I have failed to do over the past three years. For all the same reasons you’ve mentioned, I am moving off campus to avoid being stigmatized for the doing the same things my guy friends can do. And that is sad. I wish I could stay on campus and enjoy the community and family I’ve grown to love. But to avoid being punished for legally imbibing as the law now allows me to and hanging out with friends at any time, I am moving away from the campus that I love. Again, thank you for you insight and perspective.

  • cvmichael

    Yeah! Kill the double standard – treat the male dorms the SAME as the Women’s!

  • Evan Robert

    I agree with your position in the sense that it is unfair for men and women’s dorms to have such different community cultures and enforcements of the rules; however I have a few issues with how you portrayed the issue:

    1. When guys in male dorms are caught breaking parietals, both party’s names are sent to OCS. I am an offender of this rule and multiple friends of mine have broken this rule as well. We have our first strike and a subsequent offense would result in an action defined by OCS, not the dorms. This applies to alcohol as well. In some male dorms, in-house discipline is virtually non-existent. While generally this is not the case for women’s dorms. However after multiple offenses, OCS and the administration treat both offenses very seriously and equally.

    2. I don’t think you have clarified whether this issue should be solved by an increased enforcement of the rules in Men’s dorms, or the relaxation of the rules in Women’s dorms. The former is a university issue where they can crack down on these issues you’ve brought up. If you believe that women’s dorms should be more relaxed, then the administration can do nothing to resolve this issue. That responsibility lies solely on the dorm’s hall staff as well as the women in the dorm.

    You raise a valid point that there needs be a smaller gap between the male and female dorm communities (personally I believe Women’s dorms should relax their enforcement rules). While I appreciate your bringing to light of this matter, your call to arms is focused on the administration and that is a gross misunderstanding of where the responsibility lies in this issue. Bringing the administration in on this issue will only complicate things and inevitably lessen the quality of life for all of us.

  • Steve

    Overlooking your tenuous grasp on the English language, this is flagrantly incorrect. I have been to ‘social gatherings’ in both male, and female dorms. I have broken parietals easily both in my own dorm and in women’s dorms. Now that that’s settled, let’s talk about the fact that you say the same thing, and I paraphrase thus, ‘by means of alcohol and parietal enforcement, women’s and men’s dorms are different,’ four or five times in 792 words. Vague generalizations form the majority of this and I don’t even wana finish this critique cuz I gotta go write a paper hopefully its better than this smh lls lol lmfao

  • Caitlin

    I have mixed feelings on this, in particular regarding your portrayal of women’s dorms. As a very recent alum, the generalities you portray of men vs. women seem much more like stereotypes than reality (really 12:05 vs not batting an eye at parietals? that is very exaggerated). I agree with the sentiment that the double standard needs resolved, but I disagree with the characterization that women’s dorms and particularly staff are at fault. Women’s dorms are following the rules as written by the administration. As newer institutions, often headed by less experienced rectors, who subsequently have far less clout, I think women’s dorms are doing the best they can to try to comply with the university while still respecting their residents. What are you actually proposing here? That women’s dorms and their staff simply ignore the rules? I think that this suggestion in itself is a double standard. Women’s dorms would never get away with ignoring the rules in the way that the old boys club of men’s dorms and their staff are allowed to do. However, if you are suggesting that Notre Dame amend their rules to a more relaxed standard that is then consistently enforced across male and female dorms, then you have a more coherent argument. This seems like a pipe dream to achieve at ND. I agree with other commenters that this seems like a great way to encourage the administration to crack down on men’s dorms. After all, your gripe is that women’s dorms actually follow the rules, while men’s dorms ignore them. Hardly the fault of the women there…

  • Andrew Pott

    Hello all. I would like to make a few responses toward everyone’s great comments on my article “Archaic double standards” published in the Observer yesterday.

    First, to the people who have experienced what I describe: I wrote this article with y’all in mind. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I am constantly frustrated by the inequalities between men’s and women’s dorms and many of you share that feeling.

    To those who say I propose no solution, that I am unclear whether I want men’s dorms to become stricter or whether I want women’s dorms to become more relaxed.. I propose no real solution because I’m not trying to. In my eyes, there isn’t an easy solution. Abolishing parietals is probably the easiest way, but the university admin will most likely never do this and I wrote the article assuming that. One thing I’ve discussed with people is strengthening communities in women’s dorms to possibly create a more relaxed atmosphere. I think this could work. In any case, I didn’t write this article because I think I know how to fix it. I wrote this article to give a voice to people who are frustrated by the current system.

    I also don’t think my article will push administration to make dorms stricter. Notre Dame wants to keep people on campus, not push them off. Making the dorms stricter will go against what Notre Dame actually wants. Regardless, fear of Notre Dame admin creating stricter rules isn’t a reason not to point out blatant inequality. The students of Notre Dame have an obligation to speak out against an unfair system, regardless of any fear that one might have. Refusing to speak out is silent agreement with administration that this system is okay.

    Some people have said that I use too much anecdotal evidence. I wrote this article in concert with a project in one of my classes. We conducted a survey and received statistics from around 360 different students. For example, boys’ dorms’ communities were on average rated 7.5 with girls’ dorms’ communities rated 6. Further, 65% of responders had witnessed blatant inequality between the ways men and women were treated in their respective dorms, with 96% saying the inequalities occurred in the context of parietals. Even though these statistics could have added some level of concrete evidence to my article, I felt as if so many people at Notre Dame had experienced the same thing that the statistics were almost unnecessary for an opinion-based Viewpoint article. It almost felt like it’d be more of an actual Observer article rather than a Viewpoint I wrote on my own. That said, I do agree they could have added some level of concrete-ness to my article.

    Other people have argued that I overgeneralize the dorms. Yes, males’ dorms are sometimes very strict. Yes, females’ dorms are sometimes very relaxed. But the general trend of massive inequality between how men and women are treated in their dorms is undeniable.

    Many have also said that I place all blame on the administration. This is untrue. I actually say in my final paragraph that fixing these issues will “take a concentrated effort… from administration, current students and alumni.” I’m not placing all blame on the administration at all. If I portrayed myself as such, I deeply apologize; I did not intend this. Is administration partially at fault for the inequality? In my opinion, yes. But there is a whole host of other people and groups who are also at least partially at fault. Rectors, hall staff, students, and the larger ND family all, in some way, perpetuate the inequality between dorms. Like I said, this issue must be tackled by all members of the Notre Dame community. I love Notre Dame. Its administration is for the most part incredible and does the absolute best they can with the resources and circumstances they are given. But if you love something, you have an obligation to criticize it because you see how much more it can be. I love Notre Dame, but it upsets me seeing such blatant inequality knowing that Notre Dame is so much better than this.

    Finally, many have criticized my writing style. I tried to write this article in a very simple, easy-to-understand manner. It’s an opinion piece, not an academic paper. That said, my writing definitely could have been better in certain areas.

    I wrote the article with the intention of voicing frustrations with the current system. I did not attempt to produce a new system or solution. I hope this response has been satisfactory, and if not, feel free to critique again.

    Thank you for all the feedback! I have tried to read every comment on the article in the last day. It is amazing watching the discussion that has occurred because of it.

    • Johnny Whichard

      Perhaps this was slightly before your time, but it was articles like this that led to the Office of “Community Standards” removing most of the in-house discipline for male dorms (resulting in ridiculous discipline practices from a third party that cause mental harm to students). The campus is at its best when the dorms are given the disciplinary power….not a broad sweeping set of policies from a bunch of old people who think they are in touch with the student body. When dorms have the power, it fosters students holding each other accountable. (Imagine your rector talking to you about your new concerning drinking issue…..vs several scary old people you’ve never met before putting your “disciplinary hearing” on a two month timeline that leaves you unsure if you will be able to live on campus the following year….)

      You’re right, it isn’t an easy issue….but pushing for all dorms to have the same rules is NEVER going to end in the University becoming more lax in terms of parietals/booze. If I were you, I’d push for dorm identity and keep the top-down decision makers in the Admin building as far away from you as possible.