Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Law Professor Continues to Battle Catholic University Over Same-Sex Dorms

By Nathan Koppel

(The Wall Street Journal) Several months back, Catholic University President John Garvey announced in this WSJ opinion piece that the school was eliminating coed housing for incoming freshman this term.

Why? Garvey believes the move will help reduce binge drinking and casual hook-ups at the school.

In June, John Banzhaf, a professor at George Washington University Law School, told the Law Blog that he intended to sue Catholic University, contending that the same-sex plan violates D.C.’s Human Rights Act. (He ultimately filed a complaint against Garvey.)

Last week, Banzhaf had a closed-door mediation with Catholic University in the Washington, D.C. Office of Human Rights, in an effort to resolve his complaint, the BLT Blog reports. (The Office of Human Rights is a city agency that seeks to eradicate discrimination and increase equal opportunity.)

“I maintain that you can no more have separate dormitories for men and women than you can have [separate] parking lots, laboratories or classes; you can’t have calculus for men, calculus for women,” Banzhaf told BLT.

Both sides declined to say what transpired at the mediation, BLT reports.

The Law Blog has sought comment from Catholic University and Banzhaf.

During the mediation, the university’s legal representatives defended the new same-sex dorm policy, according to the school’s newspaper, The Tower, which notes that president Garvey did not attend the mediation.

Catholic University spokesman Victor Nakas told The Tower, “We remain confident that under local and federal law we have every right to move forward with same-sex dorms.”

Update: Nakas offered a statement to the Law Blog.

DC’s Human Rights Act, he said, “forbids a school from denying or conditioning the use of facilities for a discriminatory reason. The single-sex residence policy that we are phasing in treats both sexes equally, so there is no discrimination.”

He added: ” The transition to single-sex residence halls – a return to a policy that was once common – is rooted mainly in a desire to curb the abuse of alcohol and to stymie development of a “hook-up” culture at the University. The University’s decision will contribute to strengthening its educational process and the holistic development of its students. . . .Professor Banzhaf has every right to his opinion and to express it publicly. However, as a citizen unaffiliated with Catholic University in any way, he does not have the right to insist that the institution change its well-considered policies”

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