Catholic dorms coming to secular universities.

It’s no secret that young people tend to fall out of faith when they attend college.  There’s something about meeting new people who don’t share their views and learning that is toxic to the survival of religious faith.  Matt Zerrusen, president of Newman Student Housing Fund, has the solution: make sure Catholic students live around other Catholic students when they go to college.  This will help them resist the devil, who likes to sneak around amidst diversity.

Texas A&M and the Florida Institute of Technology are both about to build dorms for Catholic students.

Zerrusen said the intention of the dormitories is to provide a faith-based community, without requiring dramatic sacrifices of students – “you don’t have to memorize the Catechism to live here … but we’ll surround you with positive Catholic influences.”

Of course, other students can live there.

He says the residence hall at Florida Institute of Technology will be open to all students, not just Catholics. “My hope is that it would be a tool for evangelization for the rest of the campus.”

Oh, to be a student again.  :)  And to all non-Catholics living there, don’t worry…

“We’re not forcing anyone to go to church or even forcing them to talk about their faith … we are simply presenting a positive environment where students have the opportunity to make decisions based in sound Christian principle .”


The dorms are meant to have a stricter alcohol policy and visiting hours than other dorms, with dorm rooms separated for the sexes and “obviously” a strict overnight guest policy.

I think that’s a great idea.  That will keep students who fell out of faith in high school, but who got dropped in those dorms by the family they’re trying to appease by staying in the closet, from crashing over with a guy or gal (or multiple guys or gals) in the regular dorms.

“St. John’s is the model we’re going after, and we’re just trying to give students a place on campus where if they want to express their faith and live a Catholic life, they have an opportunity to do so,” Zerrusen said.

Is there some rule on college campuses preventing people from living like a Catholic or expressing their faith?  I honestly wonder if there’s a university in the country where there isn’t a school-sanctioned group just for that type of student.  These dorms are not intended to unmake some form of oppression, they’re meant to shield students from discovering that ditching Catholic dogma is acceptable, and a lot more fun.  It’s to limit the exposure to new things.

In fact, that is the whole history of religion – dictating what you can or cannot look at, what experiences you are forbidden to enjoy, and even what thoughts you are allowed to think.  Of course college is anathema to faith.  That is precisely why I don’t think those dorms will achieve their goal.  It’s not just where the students live, it’s meeting other students and learning new facts about how the world works that helps lead students away from the dogma of ages past.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • invivoMark

    Wait, wouldn’t they want to enforce mixed-sex interactions? I mean, they wouldn’t want their residents to catch teh ghey, would they?

  • Watry

    Yeah, this isn’t going to work. I don’t even live in a dorm, and I’m being continually exposed to new ideas and viewpoints, through, y’know, classes, and the dining hall, and the gym, and student clubs, etc., etc.

  • H.H.

    I had a buddy who transferred to my college mid-term. The only available dorm spot open to him was in a 24 quiet study dorm. This kid was a partier and it was not at all a good fit. What happens if the only dorm spots left available are in the “Catholic” dorm? Yeah, no possible conflict there.

  • Nicole Introvert

    Can’t they have this stricter dorm without it being Catholic? I would have signed up for this in a jiffy if I had gone off to college. Me and my introverted fibromyalgia butt wouldn’t have wanted to be around a bunch of drunk people ruining my beauty sleep.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Which brings up the question: which residence would Jesus live in? I don’t think he’d go for the stricter alcohol policy. I suspect he might have gone the fraternity route.

  • IslandBrewer

    I think I see a new theme for porn movies.

  • pjmaertz

    I went to the St. John’s they’re talking about, and that place turned me from a lukewarm theist to a cold, heartless atheist. Its an all guys school, but there’s an all girls school near by, and most everybody gets hammered and has sex. I doubt this will change the way people behave at these schools.

    So this will just be a dorm for people whose religious parents are forcing them to live there. Sounds like fun.

  • Brad1990

    “There’s something about meeting new people who don’t share their views and learning that is toxic to the survival of religious faith.”

    There’s nothing like a combination of an open mind and an open book to kill off religion :)

    So obviously we must segregate our flock, lest they be exposed to diversity and differing viewpoints and be led astray by *gasp* science, and reason, learning and education! For if they should ever learn the Devil’s doctrine of logic and critical thinking then they shall surely see through our ruse…

  • Stogoe

    This seems like an awful idea. Are they going to build Baptist dorms next? Muslim dorms? Seventh Day Adventist dorms? If public universities are going to build special accomodations for one faith only, doesn’t that run foul of the establishment clause?

    • John Horstman

      If public universities are going to build special accomodations for one faith only, doesn’t that run foul of the establishment clause?

      Well, they’re NOT barring non-Catholics nor are they requiring any specifically-Catholic behaviors. That said, it does sound like they want to fill the dorms with Catholic religious symbolism, which is very much illegal (at least, according to my public university’s interpretation of the law) if it’s being built on public land or with public money. The article is not specific about that; my guess would be that they’re campus-adjacent, technically-off-campus dormitories (our campus, for example, is surrounded by churches, but we have none on university-owned land, which would be illegal), but then I’ve seen schools do a whole lot of stupid, obviously-illegal shit in the name of religion, so there’s no guarantee.

    • John Horstman

      Also, it’s not the university that’s building the dorms, it’s some third-party group, the Newman Student Housing Fund. I think they’re willfully mis-framing this in the article to make it seem like those evil secular universities are finally accepting the holy light of Catholic Jesus.

      • Stogoe

        So they’re off-campus Catholic-ish studio apartments with shared bathrooms?

  • eric

    My cynical side says this is merely the Uni administrations trying to make themselves more appealing to the parents. Basically, product advertising. This is the extra ginsu knife set they give you that you can’t get from any other University. Act now, and get a dorm spot of your chosen religion!
    They probably have little or no intention of enforcing any stricter regulations in these dorms. At most, the dorms will attract those RA’s who would tend to be more strict anyway, but beyond that, I doubt the school can or will do much.

  • baal

    I’m somewhat uneasy with the title “catholic dorm” especially if they push to get them in State institutions. That said, my under grad (20years ago!) and grad universities in the midwest had ‘strict’ dorms with no alcohol, no overnights, no noise, etc policies. So the basic idea has been around for a while.