Lately, I've seen a lot of articles in The Observer (Notre Dame and Saint Mary's primary campus news source) and The Odyssey about Parietals at SMC and ND. If you don't know what parietals are, they're basically rules for times that guys can be in girls dorms, and vice versa. However, most people see them the way that most Zahm House men put it; "Notre Dame's rules for boy-girl sleepovers". Anyways, I've seen these articles criticizing many things about our parietals, including the gender roles and assumptions they make, along with other issues that are gaining traction in today's society. Many believe that parietals assume that all are heterosexual Catholics who are looking for a loving relationship with those of the other sex. And while I do believe this is an issue in these ever-changing times, I truly think there's a much bigger problem with parietals that many are failing to recognize.
The real problem with parietals is this: Sexual assault and rape.
Now I know that this article has already mentioned the dreaded "r" word, which may turn some of you who aren't looking for a downer away, but please bare with me. Parietals are designed to keep students of the opposite sex from entering and/or staying in dorms that are meant for only the opposite sex. They're intended to keep people out and safe. Yet, they fail to address how they're more likely to keep people in than to make them leave.
When you give young people rules, they tend to want to break them, not so much to be deviant, but rather to prove their adulthood and independence. Therefore, when people are hanging out and studying together in the dorms, like most college students do, and midnight rolls around, many just say, "I'll just stay here to study and sleep on your futon".
Now here's the hard part: once someone is stuck in the dorm with someone of the opposite sex past a set curfew, there's a much higher chance of rape occurring due to the guest feeling pressure not to leave the room, despite feeling threatened, so as not to get written up (which can prevent you from study abroad, pilgrimage opportunities, March for Life, and other fun things people do in college). This gives an attacker a much easier opportunity to get what they want. One student even says, “I think parietals create endemic problems between the genders. I’ve heard of girls who felt pressured to stay over in guys’ rooms after parietals because they’re more afraid of getting in trouble than saying no.” (Junior, American Studies, McGlinn Hall).
Many may argue that you can go to the RA (Resident Assistant) and let them know you're in a bad situation that you need to get out of, but many don't even know that it's even an option. When you walk into the bathroom in these dorms, they have signs all over the walls that tell you what to do after you've been assaulted, BUT they say nothing of what to do before an assault when you feel threatened. They put such an emphasis on reporting the problem after it's happened, and not preventing before. So while the campuses may seem to look supportive of students, they're not very protective of them.
While many students are trying to do something about this, including starting groups to support others and working with administration, little changes have been made. This is mainly due to one thing: image. Notre Dame is notorious for being the United State's premiere Catholic educational institution, and they have a huge image of being one of the most perfect and sought after educations as well. Because of this, what Notre Dame won't tell you is that there has really been over 50 assaults just this semester, and not only the three or four that the student body has been notified of (this information was received from a university official that will remain anonymous).
To be putting true statistics and information of assaults that happen at ND out to the public would be to tarnish their perfect name. Yet, in the long run, not putting that information out there disadvantages students who are trusting of stragers when they go out to a party where alcohol is involved just because they are all from the same school, or when they are even in the dorm of someone of the opposite sex when it's getting close to parietals. This is not to say students should mistrust each other, but that they should be protective of their well-being and they should be receiving facts that could help them further protect themselves.
Until we can let go of the idea that, as perfectly said by previous Saint Mary's President Mooney, "That doesn't happen here", we can't truly help protect each other and create the perfect community that we strive to be at our Holy Cross Colleges.
Despite this, I hope that, for the sake of my peers, friends, and college family, we can one day truly live out the images we have of our perfect schools.