Eliminate Fordham’s “Cohabitation” Policy Banning “Opposite-Sex” Overnight Guests

by Evan Cramb, FCRH ’18

Fordham University has a set of rules prohibiting “cohabitation.” These are policies to prevent pre-marital sex. Residents of the student dorms are not allowed to have guests of the “opposite sex” stay overnight. (I use scare-quotes as the policy’s language conflates biological sex with gender and reductively assumes that there are only two genders, the binary male and female.). Overnight guest passes are issued in an arbitrarily small and limited quantity weekly, with a two-night maximum, and requiring 24-hour-in-advance reservation, to student residents for guests only of the host’s “same-sex.” These policies are listed under the disturbing title of “Moral Growth and Responsibility” in the Residential Life Handbook, a title which unfoundedly paints all sexual activity as immoral, immature, and irresponsible. These policies have fostered a stigma surrounding sex and sexual health on campus. This stigma makes it harder for survivors of sexual assault to come forward and seek help. Furthermore, the language and enforcement of these policies discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, & queer students.

When using the word “sex” in these policies the university only recognizes heterosexual sex as legitimate. The university will not let students of “opposite sexes” spend the night together because they view this as an opportunity for sexual activity. However, the reality is that students of the same sex regularly engage in sexual activity. The refusal of university guest policy to recognize this effectively denies the existence or validity of LGBTQ students and relationships. In policies supposedly meant to protect the residential and wider University community, LGBTQ students are entirely forgotten. If Fordham is worried about premarital sex, and same-sex couples are now nationally legally allowed to wed, it follows that gay sex before marriage would be one of their concerns. Yet the policy does not address this concern, as it only recognizes heterosexual activity. This does a disservice to LGBTQ students, as they are directly impacted by gender normative and heteronormative language. The terms of the policy itself bolster assumptions of a false gender binary and contributes to the marginalization of Fordham’s LGBTQ students. This is antithetical to the University’s claims of commitment to “diversity” and “inclusion.”

The “cohabitation” policy is harmfully reductive even in referring to simply heterosexual students. The “cohabitation” policy assumes that all guests of the “opposite-sex” to the host are staying for sexual reasons. This is a sweeping and condescending generalization. Many people of “opposite sexes” are simply friends who would spend the night for fun, convenience, or necessity. Asexual students will find offense at the University’s insistence that relations between people of “opposite sexes” are necessarily sexual. The restriction on guests based on their gender—a policy which does not exist at many other Universities—stifles community building and the formation of friendships, among other negative effects. In a broader context these policies create gender segregation that damages the equality of men, women and people of other genders.

The university does not have any place in policing students’ sexual choices. To police student sexuality with the current anti-“cohabitation” policy is to oppress students of all sexualities and genders through fear, discipline, and punishment. Rather than expanding the reach of the anti-“cohabitation” policy and policing LGBTQ students’ sexual activities, the “cohabitation” prohibition should be abolished. Only in cases of sexual assault or abuse should the university treat sexual activity as a crime. The University must allow overnight guests of the “opposite-sex.” Guests of any gender must be allowed to stay overnight with any Fordham student regardless of the host’s gender. Furthermore, students of all genders must be allowed to live together. This will allow students to make informed choices for themselves that will be recognized and protected by the University, rather than enforcing a moralistic prescription that excludes many and protects few. The University must listen in open terms about the rich sexual lives of its students, so that it may provide its student the opportunity for true moral growth and responsibility. Without freedom, we cannot grow or take responsibility.

As the policies stand today, Fordham does not see LGBTQIA+ people. We can change that. Remove the “cohabitation” policy.

The policy is reproduced below as it appears in the Residential Life Handbook:

Moral Growth and Responsibility

Fordham’s mission as an institution of higher learning is closely tied to its rich Jesuit Catholic heritage. The faculty, students, staff, and administrators of Fordham University are informed by the Jesuit, Catholic tradition of responsible moral living. Residence hall life, of course, is an integral part of the Fordham student’s education, and community life in the residence halls is necessarily based upon the University’s founding principle.

One such principle holds that sexual intercourse is to be reserved for marriage. Cohabitation is therefore prohibited in the residence halls. Furthermore, a student is not permitted to request or cajole a roommate to leave his or her room, suite or apartment in order to facilitate sexual activities.

Failure to Comply: Cohabitation may lead to sanctions ranging from the loss of visitation privileges to residence halls probation or dismissal from the residence halls.

(Read the full policy)

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