Catholic Univ. Can Have Single-Sex Dorms, Human Rights Office Says

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By Brittany Smith, Christian Post Reporter
December 1, 2011|3:17 pm

The D.C. Office of Human Rights dismissed a complaint Tuesday filed against The Catholic University of America. George Washington University law professor John F. Banzhaf III filed the complaint in response to CUA’s announcement in June that they would return to same-gender dorms.

The dismissal affirms the university’s position that it was not in violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (DCHRA). The OHR order regarding the complaint states that “[a]fter examining the legislative history of the Act … OHR finds that the Complainant fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted under the Act because same-sex dormitories do not constitute unlawful discrimination.”

The order goes on to say that the DCHRA does not forbid colleges and universities from making gender-based distinctions between students. If that were the case, OHR says, it would “include a prohibition on same-sex bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams, which would lead to absurd results.”

The OHR based its decision, in large part, on the Title IX law that states that same-sex housing policies on college campuses do not constitute discrimination on the basis of sex.

The university implemented same-sex housing this year as a way to reduce binge drinking and hooking up on campus. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, university president John Garvey cited statistics about drinking by college men and women as some of the reasons for the new policy.

In the article he said, “I would have thought that young women would have a civilizing influence on young men. Yet the causal arrow seems to run the other way. Young women are trying to keep up – and young men are encouraging them (maybe because it facilitates hooking up).”

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The OHR order notes that Garvey’s statement regarding drinking by young men and women “does not suggest Respondent [Garvey] was motivated by a discriminatory animus against women” as Banzhaf argues in his complaint.

Banzhaf filed the complaint because he said that CUA’s residence hall policy would discriminate against female students, but the order found this to be a legal conclusion, and "not entitled to any assumption of truth" or supported by facts.

“I am gratified by the Office of Human Rights’ dismissal of the complaint, particularly its rejection of every one of the Complainant’s arguments,” said Catholic University President Garvey in a statement.

“We were confident from the beginning that our actions were entirely legal and that OHR’s decision would be favorable to our side. I am thankful for the outpouring of public support for our right to implement a principled decision to transition to single-sex residence halls. We will continue down that path,” he added.

Banzhaf’s complaint about single sex residence halls is the first of two that he filed this year against the University. The second complaint came in October against Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, and university chancellor. It charges Catholic University with engaging in discrimination against its Muslim students. The University has yet to receive any official notification from the OHR regarding the complaint.

Banzhaf did not return phone calls or an email from The Christian Post regarding the matter before press time.

 

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