The Dispatch: More from CWR...

Catholic colleges now offering ‘gender-inclusive’ housing, among other LGBTQ+ initiatives

Edie HeipelJoe Bukuras   By Edie HeipelJoe Bukuras for CNA


Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 9, 2022 / 12:39 pm (CNA).

Catholic parents with children in college have something other than rising tuition bills to worry about this fall, as some Catholic colleges and universities are adopting “gender-inclusive” housing policies as part of a broader embrace of gender ideology.

Sacred Heart University, Saint Mary’s College of California, and Fairfield University are three universities providing a “gender-inclusive” roommate option this school year, which means sharing a dorm room with someone of the opposite sex.

Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, offers a gender-inclusive housing option that consists of “two or more students [who] mutually agree to live in a gender-inclusive, multiple-occupancy bedroom, suite, or apartment.”

Any student can opt for being matched with roommates of the opposite sex and the college doesn’t notify parents when students do so. The policy says that it’s “expected and encouraged” that students notify their families about their housing assignment.

The policy offers both random and self-selected roommate assignments. But what if those two students are romantically involved?

Sacred Heart says the policy is not intended for romantic couples and advises against rooming with a romantic partner. However, the school says that while it advises against living with a romantic partner, it respects the privacy of students, “so current procedures do not require students to disclose their reason for roommate requests.”

“Some relationships are ready for this step while others are not, and there can be serious challenges for all students should the relationship end,” the policy reads.

Entrance to Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. Shutterstock
Entrance to Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. Shutterstock

According to the policy, if problems arise between roommates, a mediation process is implemented. If the problem can’t be resolved, then students are reassigned based on their space needs and housing preferences.

Students who no longer wish to live in gender-inclusive housing can request another housing assignment, but whether the college will accommodate them depends on the “availability of space.”

The university website also says it offers “all-gender” restrooms on campus. Sacred Heart did not respond to a request for comment.

Complying with Title IX?

Just less than a 15-minute drive away from Sacred Heart, Fairfield University also offers “gender-inclusive” housing with much of the same parameters.

The Jesuit university cites Title IX — a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination that has been reinterpreted under the Biden administration to include “sexual orientation or gender identity” — as the reason for the policy.

The university admits that Title IX allows universities to separate men and women in housing. However, the university claims that “a school must allow transgender students to access housing consistent with their gender identity.”

However, the policy isn’t just limited to students who identify as transgender. Any undergraduate student who has “an understanding of gender identity and gender expression” and wishes to live in “gender-inclusive housing” can participate.

The policy also says transgender students cannot be required to stay in single rooms or disclose personal information to other students.

“Therefore, Fairfield University is implementing changes on campus in order to have better gender inclusive practices to ensure that all students, in alignment with our Jesuit ideals, feel welcomed and safe on campus,” the policy says.

According to a university student-run newspaper, Fairfield has offered the option since 2017, well before the Biden administration made changes to the Title IX rule in 2022.

Patrick J. Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society, told CNA that using Title IX as an excuse to allow men and women to room together is “a shameful deception.”

The Cardinal Newman Society is an organization dedicated to promoting and defending Catholic education. The society publishes a list each year called the Newman Guide that recommends faithful Catholic colleges and universities to Catholic families.

There are currently 15 ​​U.S. residential colleges, two nonresidential colleges, and two online colleges on the Newman list. There are six international universities on the list.

“It is distressing that Fairfield University would voluntarily comply with the Biden administration’s distortion of Title IX, which directly conflicts with Catholic teaching, especially since Title IX offers a strong exemption for religious colleges,” Reilly said. “No religious college must obey the administration’s transgender rules.”

Reilly said that using Title IX as an excuse for gender-inclusive housing is “a shameful deception that puts students in serious physical and moral danger and exposes Fairfield’s Catholic identity as fraudulent.”

According to the U.S. Office for Civil Rights, “Title IX does not apply to an educational institution that is controlled by a religious organization to the extent that application of Title IX would be inconsistent with the religious tenets of the organization.”

The government agency’s website says that “The Department’s Title IX regulations provide that, if an educational institution wishes to claim an exemption, the highest ranking official of the institution submit a written statement to the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, identifying the provisions of Title IX that conflict with a specific tenet of the religious organization.”

Fairfield University did not respond to a request for comment.

Embracing gender identity

Saint Mary’s College of California in the San Francisco Bay area offers gender-inclusive housing assignments and a host of other LGBTQ resources.

“It is the intention of Campus Housing to make room assignments on how you, the student, identify,” Saint Mary’s website reads.

Saint Mary’s website references the college’s nondiscrimination disclosure as the basis for the policy.

The college states it has a “very active LGBTQIA student body” and refers to a list of what makes a college “safe” for LGBTQ students, including gender-neutral housing and bathrooms, access to transgender health care, and “signs of pride” around campus such as rainbow flags and pink triangles.

Saint Mary’s is named as “one of the most LGBT friendly Catholic campuses in the country” by New Ways Ministry, an organization that advocates for changing the Catholic Church’s teachings on same-sex marriage.

The college’s women’s center, intercultural center, and student-run PRIDE club on campus frequently host “queer” events highlighting and celebrating the LGTBQ community.

Saint Mary’s did not respond to requests for comment.

Denise Donohue, vice president for educator resources at The Cardinal Newman Society, criticized the “gender-inclusive” housing initiatives of each of the universities in light of their Catholic affiliation.

“Giving in to these sexualized ideologies in the guise of diversity and inclusion negates the opportunity for young people to practice the virtues, such as modesty, which will get them to heaven,” Donohue told CNA.

“Young people today need all the support they can get to live chaste lives so they can give of themselves, in purity, to their future spouse or religious life,” she added.

“Where is that message being given at these universities?”

Villanova’s pronoun policy

Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania, released a document earlier this year implementing a new policy that allows faculty and students to update their personal information to reflect their new names and preferred pronouns.

“Chosen first name and personal pronoun will now appear on class lists and other university communications,” Villanova’s gender inclusivity manual reads. ​​The policy also instructs faculty and staff on how to be “gender-inclusive” on campus and avoid the “harmful effects of gender stereotyping and misgendering.”

A university spokesman defended the new chosen name policy in an email to CNA, stating, “Calling someone by their name and pronouns is a show of respect for them as a person and fellow Villanovan.”

“Villanova upholds and maintains the Catholic Church’s teaching that all people are accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. As part of our Augustinian values of Veritas, Unitas, Caritas — Truth, Unity and Love — Villanova seeks to be a welcoming and inclusive community that respects members of all backgrounds and faiths,” he added.

The Chapel of St. Thomas of Villanova on the campus of Villanova University. Shutterstock
The Chapel of St. Thomas of Villanova on the campus of Villanova University. Shutterstock

Villanova also provides gender-neutral bathrooms and LGBTQ-specific groups, scholarships, fellowships, and internships.

The school’s LGBTQ Employee Resource Group issued a public statement on the college’s website supporting same-sex marriage and condemning the Vatican’s recognition of same-sex marriage as a sin.

“We are dismayed by the recent statement from the Vatican that names same-sex unions as a ‘sin’ and suggests that it is a choice to love someone of the same sex,” the statement reads, adding that the move was “especially hurtful considering the Catholic Church’s longstanding exclusion of LGBTQ+ people.”

The statement concludes with “A Prayer for All Marriages” petitioning for God’s blessing on “every marriage regardless of gender or sexual orientation” and asking God to “guide us as we speak out against oppression in our Church.”

Villanova also hosts a campus chapter of Athlete Ally, a nonprofit LGBTQ advocacy organization created as an “inclusive environment” for LGBTQ athletes.

Villanova’s chapter page features its mission statement “to end the rampant heteronormative and transphobia in sports and to activate the athletic community to exercise their leadership to champion LGBTQAI+ equality.”

The page also displays a video of Villanova students discussing how the university has been a “safe space” for them as “queer athletes.”

Pope Francis has condemned gender ideology in recent statements, saying that “biological sex and the sociocultural role of sex [gender] can be distinguished but not separated” and that “it is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality.”

New Ways Ministries, which advocates for changing the Catholic Church’s teachings on same-sex marriage, has an ongoing list of “LGBTQ-Friendly Catholic Colleges and Universities.”

According to New Ways’ website, an institution qualifies as LGBTQ-friendly by meeting certain criteria such as having an official student gender and sexuality organization on campus, offering LGBTQ-specific counseling, or having “some public affirmation in place.” There are a total of over 140 Catholic universities on the list.

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  1. Listen to me very carefully: These are NOT Catholic colleges. Quick, stop paying your child’s tuition at these places and enroll them in any one of the fine Newman colleges.

  2. Might we expect, “formerly” (!) Catholic colleges and universities? What say the bishops? When the shepherds become sheep, then: baa baa baa Baal.

    As for Villanova’s “safe space,” why are we reminded of pace-setting Brown University whose safe space room offered “cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh [not Plato], calming music, pillows, blankets, and a video of frolicking puppies” (New York Times (2016).

    Who said high-tuition universities are a waste of money? They’re the biggest day care center network in the country. All this for the bargain-basement price of a Land O’ Lakes Declaration in 1967.

  3. Just disgusting, and a total betrayal of Catholic values. My suggestion would be that parents paying an exorbitant tuition need to know their children are being taught CATHOLIC values, and should check this very carefully before allowing their children to attend. It would seem that the more “famous” the Catholic college, the more it strays from catholic morality. I suggest they not give their cash to colleges which push this sort of normalization of the abnormal.

    • Sadly, I don’t know how many parents are concerned about this. The ones who are tend to encourage their children to attend orthodox Catholic colleges to begin with. That’s what I did.
      I remember decades ago hearing a friend my own age talk about mixed dorms at her college and men and women sharing restrooms.I guess it’s just taken these “Catholic ” colleges a while to catch up to the world’s standards.
      And at the end of the day, college students are adults. It’s not the school’s job to report on students to their parents.

      • But if college student are adults i.e. they are fully emancipated and self-sufficient, they wouldn’t expect their parents to in any way foot the bill for their college tuition. Truth is that these “adults” far too frequently return home to mommy and daddy after graduation.

          • Well, you can have them pay the tuition if you want them saddled with a life long debt. Or have the democrats force others to pay it for them. My son had a sport scholarship which paid $15,000 per year for his tuition, and a state scholarship for another $14,000. The remaining $26,000 of his $55,000 annual tuition at a CATHOLIC University was paid for by me. He graduated 13 years ago and that same school now charges $77,000 a year.Times 4 years, assuming they are able to graduate on time. Thinking a kid can pay for this by working at McDonalds is not realistic.That being said, there are a lot of people attending college who do not belong there.However, societal pressure advocates for EVERY high school grad to attend college , even if their academics are not up to the challenge.

  4. I’m just a bit confused why fellow Catholics presume that gender neutral/inclusive housing PRESUMES sexual activity amongst roommates. Isn’t the goal of gender-inclusive housing precisely to avoid rooming with a person whose sexual accidents are found attractive and an occasion for sin? The charge that I am naive regarding students inability to avoid sexual activity seems to imply a rather Calvinistic notion of total depravity rather than a robust hope that chastity (rightly ordered sexuality) shall prevail with God’s help. Do we concede to an overly sexualized culture? Or do we prayerfully and charitably seek to show a better way to live? Augustine has much to say on this, but I’m not sure his experience in Carthage would be deemed Catholic given other commenters. rather curious idolatry of “purity.” As Benedict XVI taught: charity in truth, please.

    • You’re kidding, aren’t you?? Sexual purity is all but an extinct dinosaur at this point, a situation aided by exactly the normalization of what used to be frowned upon. An all-girls dorm was to afford a level of privacy and a level of safety for the women there. A man strolling about an all female dorm would be spotted immediately and asked to leave. In a mixed dorm there is no way of knowing if a man “belongs” there or is an intruder with ill intent.Society’s bland “anything goes” and who am I to judge” attitude has contributed mightily to an atmosphere lacking in civility, respect and exhibiting coarsened levels of morality.This is not unexpected, sadly. But this is NOT ok by a long shot. While else are school districts, especially liberal ones, for-feeding 4th graders about transgenderism? .

      • Several years ago someone at work told us about her daughters experience in her first year at a state university. She was assigned a male roommate who dressed as a woman. The poor girl felt too much pressure to conform to complain about it .She was afraid she’d be thought narrow minded and unwoke, so she changed clothes in the restroom out of his sight but was still extremely unhappy and uncomfortable.
        Finally she used the excuse that there was too much drug use on campus and she transferred out to another school.
        So what young people say or don’t say and what they actually feel can be quite different.

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