The new sex policy: ethical or overbearing?

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Photo by Peter Burleigh

This semester, the University of Dallas added a policy to the student handbook prohibiting premarital sexual acts on campus. Violations of this policy will be addressed “pastorally or through the Code of Conduct.” 

In an email from the Office of Student Affairs on Aug. 19 to the student body, Seth Oldham, director of student affairs, stated that the new policy asserted UD’s “commitment to Catholic Social Teaching concerning sexual relationships outside marriage.” 

Oldham clarified the word “pastorally” for me in an email on Sep 1. 

“We understand pastoral to mean caring for the inner life of a person, which is not an exclusively Catholic or even religious approach. It is meant to indicate, in part, the possibility that the university may decide to address violations of this policy through conversations outside the conduct process. “ Oldham wrote. 

Catholic Social Teaching requires that sexual relationships occur solely within the confines of sacramental marriage. As a private university, UD has the prerogative to codify and enforce religious policies; however, the legislation of morality ultimately works against the mission of UD to educate its students in the Truth.

The motto of UD is the Latin phrase “Veritatem, Justitiam Diligite,” meaning “Love Ye Truth and Justice.” The keyword in this motto is “love.” UD endeavors to facilitate a love for the Truth. It is that spirit of love that characterizes the enthusiastic discourse that permeates our campus from the classroom to the cafeteria. 

This discourse is what makes us great. We challenge each other, revise our arguments, test our convictions and emerge with a better understanding than we had before. 

While all of this is done under the guidance of a Catholic institution, we are encouraged to speak our minds and learn from the opinions of others.

By prohibiting sex on campus, UD is essentially putting a Band Aid on a bigger problem. 

Premarital sexual relationships are not like sneaking alcohol into your dorm, trying to avoid the resident assistants so you don’t get caught breaking the rules. Sex is so much bigger than that. When you turn 21, alcohol is permitted. However, premarital sexual relationships are never permissible according to the Catholic Church. 

Telling a campus full of students “no” for four years does nothing to encourage a sincere encounter with the meaning behind the Catholic Church’s view on sex. 

Choosing to wait until marriage is an extremely important decision that we should have the power as “independent thinkers” to make for ourselves. This choice is much more meaningful when you are free to make it yourself. We should choose to remain chaste because we understand and acknowledge the power of waiting until marriage, not because we fear punishment from the powers that be. 

Although rules governing important moral actions can be comforting, we are not children anymore. Our parents are not here to tell us to go to Mass each Sunday. They’re not here to tell us to say our prayers each night. They’re not here to remind us to wait until marriage for a sexual relationship. 

UD does not take the place of our parents. They don’t make us go to Mass; instead, they provide us with the tools to explore and live in the Truth. 

If premarital sex is a significant issue on campus, let’s open a dialogue to understand the beauty of saving sex for marriage. We should challenge this issue as a community, exploring, expanding, and learning. This is what we do best as UD students. 

Together, we should learn to love the Truth behind the power of waiting until marriage to have sex. 

6 COMMENTS

  1. I went to UD to be an independent thinker. I have supported UD because it offers an education that seeks to form independent thinkers. When UD tries to pull something absurd like this, acting like a schoolmarm trying to police students’ behavior, then I wonder if that’s all for nothing and I should give up.
    I’m concerned at the unintended consequences of this policy. Who will be informing on who, and how? What exactly constitutes a violation of this policy? How will the school ensure this isn’t used to target groups on campus that are already vulnerable to harassment by the self-appointed morality police? What even is the point of this policy, because enforcing one’s morality by writing it into the code of conduct only seems to teach students to follow the rules rather than develop their own conscience?
    College students are adults. That means they need to learn to interact with the world as adults, to make their own decisions as adults, and to deal with the consequences of their actions as adults. Trying to dictate every possible choice out of students’ hands does them a disservice and leaves them vulnerable to the realities of life when they leave the safety of the bubble. I should hope UD wouldn’t continue to enforce that bubble.

    • Exactly! I am extremely disappointed that the University would think that this sort of rule would have no negative consequences.

      “Independent Thinkers” ought to be able to come to their own conclusions about faith and morals. What UD needs to do and did very well when I was there eons ago is provide a faith community and opportunities to learn and grow in faith. Not punitively enforce the Church’s teachings with rules like this, that can so easily be abused.

    • Also not to mention how badly this portrays the Catholic Church? If they wanted anyone reason to mislead young people and turn even more of them away from Catholicism, they’ve succeeded in this.

  2. His use of “pastoral” is completely manipulative. We are not called to condemn one another, much less demand control of an individual ADULT’S life choices and call that being pastoral. This university taught me to educate, not discriminate. If they actually want progress, try opening up a conversation first. Isn’t that all we are told all 4 years? It’s incredibly disheartening to see leaders in this school disregard such a vital conversation. They’re doing no more than the public school system’s idea of sex-ed, “sex is evil and if you have it you’ll die.” So disappointing.

  3. An administration that doesn’t know the needs of its own students makes alumni embarrassed, and worse, destroys the spirit of such a uniquely beautiful school. Whoever came up with a policy that shames students ought to redact it immediately.

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