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About The


August 11, 2001
Column #1041


     After 40 years as a journalist, I am rarely shocked. But I am stunned by the portrait of college social life described in the landmark report, ''Hooking Up, Hanging Out, and Hoping for Mr. Right,'' by the Institute for American Values.

     First, dating has virtually disappeared. Based on a poll of 1,000 women and in-depth interviews on 11 campuses, only 50 percent of college female seniors reported having had six or more dates since coming to college; a third have had two or fewer dates! This is a radical change from my college years, when everyone dated once or twice a weekend.

     Second, what has replaced dating is ''hooking up,'' a vague phrase. A UVA woman explained: ''Some people say hook up and they mean like making out or something, but I think most people, when they say hook up, they mean like actual sex.'' 

     Some 91 percent said hook ups, defined as ''when a guy and gal get together for a sexual encounter and don't necessarily expect anything further'' - occurred ''very often'' or ''fairly often.''  Being drunk is a lubricant. It may happen on the dance floor, in coed dorm halls or rooms.

     Asked to describe how they felt after hooking up, women were both positive and negative: 62 percent said they felt more ''desirable'' and ''awkward.'' One woman lamented, ''My last random hook was last October and it was bad. I was drunk and I just regretted it very much.''

     A Colby girl groaned, ''I just don't like encountering that person (afterward) in the cafeteria...just act(ing) like things are normal and cool.'' 

     If women find hooking up is confusing, hurtful and awkward, why do they do it? One surprising fact is there are only 79 college males per 100 females. Competition is tough. ''A lot of freshman girls think sex will lead to a relationship...and that's obviously not true,'' sighed a senior. 

     The rationalization of older girls is more disturbing: ''It is easier to like hook up with someone as opposed to...talking to them,'' said one. Some do so to avoid the pain of breaking up: ''I don't want to give so much of myself where I put myself in that position to get hurt.''

     This is bizzare, upside down thinking. They get physically involved because they don't want a commitment? Millions of young people are hopelessly confused and lost.

     The report has some good news. Surprisingly, 39 percent of college women are still virgins. A minority (40 percent) have hooked up. Only one in ten have done so more than six times. 

     However, hooking up leads some women to being ''joined at the hip. Couples spend most, if not all, of their nights together at one or the other's dorm room and they eat many of their meals together, study together, share in doing laundry and more.'' 

     A key factor is that students live in coed dorms and even share coed bathrooms. ''Relationships tend to move a lot faster, because you basically can see the person every day.'' 

     Oddly, this is called ''dating.''

     The term ''dating'' is also used to explain ''hanging out,'' in which men or women might drop by another's room to watch a video or to party.. When drinking occurs, of course, some hook up. 

     Yet 83 percent of women say ''being married is a very important goal for me.''

     Authors Norval Glenn and Elizabeth Marquardt conclude, ''Hook ups do not appear to help young people in a critical life task, which is learning how to form and sustain mature relationships.'' That's an understatement. What they learn, instead, is how to break up. 

     How can college administrators rationalize this scandal? Where are America's religious leaders, alumni and parents? Why don't they demand an end to coed dorms?

     Surely, Scripture is clear: ''Flee fornication,'' Paul wrote in I Cor. 6:18.

     Only Boston University had the courage to change the rules. In 1989, it declared an end to people of the opposite sex spending the night in dorm rooms.

     ''With dorms open 24 (hours) 7 (days), we saw too many student conflicts, which interfered with academics,'' says Herb Ross, assistant vice president. ''We had huge vandalism with punched holes in walls, toilets flooding. Overnight guests of the opposite sex interfered with roommate's privacy and access to their space. They felt they had to crash on someone's else's floor or be a voyeur.''

     That's over at BU. The quality of dorm life improved. Vandalism is rare. Initially, the number of college applications fell from 23,877 before the policy was announced to 19,644 for 5,000 slots. In 2001 there were 28,221 applications and their SAT scores rose from 1263 to 1283.

     That's secular evidence a moral position pays dividends.

Copyright 2001 Michael J. McManus.

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