My youngest son will return from his four-day Army ROTC orientation today; and this afternoon, my husband and I are going to help him move into his new home, the building in the photo above with the giant "F" on it. (The "F" is the first letter of the dorm's name, not the grade its residents usually get, I hope!) This dorm occupies a prime location on campus. It is situated right next door to the dining hall (a great place to be on those mornings when there's snow up to your knees and you might opt to skip breakfast if you have to walk too far) on a big, beautiful, grassy quad (where my husband tells me there is always something happening in good weather: ultimate frisbee, pick-up football games, catching rays, etc.). We think our boy is going to be very happy living here for his freshman year--and possibly longer. Actually, it is the norm at this famous Catholic university, where dorm life is rich and full and spirited, to stay in one dorm all four years. There are no fraternities or sororities, but the dorms offer that same feeling of brotherhood or sisterhoood to their residents. Each dorm has a unique personality and its own long-held traditions, so dorm life here offers kids all the positive aspects of Greek life without the rushing, hazing, and pledging.
The other wonderful thing about residential life at this university is that all of the dorms are single-sex, which--I'm sorry--is really the way it ought to be everywhere, even at public institutions of higher learning. That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it! Granted, coming from a Catholic perspective, single-sex dorms are the only way to go, because they best protect the kids from occasions of sin and assaults on modesty. But they also just make sense, even if you have no particular moral objection to having girls and boys living on the same hall--and at some colleges, even sharing the same bathrooms! (I would have gone unshowered for four years if that had been the case at the school I attended!)
And you know, at this place, the students are huge fans of the dorm situation. If you ask the kids who go here how they feel about it, most of them will tell you they love it and wouldn't have it any other way. A few days ago, a young female Army cadet gave a tour around campus to some of us parents, and one parent asked how she felt about dorm life. Even though she'd told us earlier in the tour that she wasn't a Catholic and wasn't particularly religious, she said she loved the single-sex dorms. As she put it, "I have a lot of guy friends, and I go and hang out with them at their dorms. But at the end of the day, I like to go back to mine, where I can kick back and relax. You know, I can wear nothing but a towel and I don't have to worry about having guys around. And boys are gross--their dorm rooms are so messy! I like living with just girls." If you ask me, even if you have no religious or moral objections to co-ed living, there are just so many practical reasons for keeping the kids separated.
On top of everything else, every dorm on this campus has its own chapel, with Mass held there on Sundays. This place is a Catholic parent's dream! Although it's far from home, I feel like I can leave my son here and know that he's going to be just fine.
Because this university does such a good job of acting in loco parentis (the way all colleges used to do, back in the day when no matter what political or religious affiliation you belonged to, the line between right and wrong/black and white hadn't become so blurred), it will be easier for my husband and me to make that long trip back home to our now-empty nest, leaving our youngest son behind in his new home away from home: the all-male dorm with the big "F" on it.