Gender Relations

One of the most consistent complaints I heard from undergraduates at Our Lady’s University concerned the poor gender relations on campus. Two major components were that men and women did not form real friendships often enough and dating did not take place between students. The two dominant ways men and women related to one another was (1) drunken hook-ups and (2) getting engaged to marry. Nothing in between.

Students often attributed this to OLU’s Catholic heritage, single-sex dorms, and policy of not allowing people in opposite sex dorms overnight (“parietals”). This led many of them to believe that if these pathologies were eliminated, gender relations would improve.

I always maintained that the state of gender relations was a generational issue, not attributable to the particular characteristics of OLU, So I defended single-sex dorms and (to a lesser extent) the parietal policy. Recently, one of my students here at Wake Forest offered some support for my position in an essay she wrote for class. The following is an excerpt:

An observation often made about seniors graduating from Wake Forest is that they are either engaged, almost engaged, or have never dated anyone in college. Why is this the pattern? Is it what students want? In the [campus newspaper] there was an article that expressed both a male and a female perspective on this issue. Both acknowledge that this was the common pattern at Wake Forest. As the girls put it, “people either don’t date at all, or are picking out rings.” . . . The other extreme found at Wake Forest is that people don’t date, but rather just hook-up on the weekends or after parties. The girl in the newspaper article asks, “Why is there pressure to randomly hook-up and not commit to one person?” This is definitely due partly to the pressure that is put on marriage. People don’t want to date someone if there is going to be a pressure for them to get married.

Wake Forest is not a Catholic university, it has co-ed dorms, and students are allowed in each others’ rooms overnight (provided that they are not actually sleeping — aside: this seems to be a self-defeating policy since I don’t think the kids are staying over to sleep). So, something more general is going on between men and women (or, perhaps more accurately, boys and girls) today. Even the commonalities in the language used on the different campuses — “ring by spring,” “hooking up,” “friend with benefits,” “walk of shame” — suggests that this is to some extent a generational issue.

But as I think about this further, I increasingly believe that saying it is a “generational issue” does not fully explain the situation. The student bodies at OLU and Wake Forest are very similar: predominantly white, upper-middle class, and suburban. So, social background may play a role. Also, both OLU and Wake Forest are largely residential campuses with no real “town-and-gown” relationship with the surrounding community and, hence, a limited social life for students. These characteristics — common to many private colleges/universities — may play a role. And the role of alcohol in the social lives of students surely has a profound effect on the way men and women relate to one another socially. I didn’t notice any major difference between the gender relations on-campus and those among students who lived off-campus; alcohol seemed to be a common denominator impeding improved relations.

One final observation, about OLU only since I don’t know what the case is at Wake Forest yet: as much as students complained about the poor gender relations on campus, no one seemed to do anything about it. I think it was easier for the students to point to the single-sex dorms and parietals than to change their behavior. Plus, if the milk is free, why buy the cow?

The Tennis

For the first time ever, I am playing this spring in an adult team tennis league sponsored by the United States Tennis Association. I guess most people sign up as a team, but I signed up as an individual so was assigned to a team composed of guys who work for R.J. Reynolds tobacco company.

We are not a strong team. I am probably the best player on the team — which is just another way of saying we are not a strong team.

Last weekend was our third match. Because of my traveling, and Chipper’s baseball schedule, I missed the first match. The second match rained out, so the third match was my first. It was actually the third time I played tennis in 2005 (other than hitting with the kids). I am sorry to say that things did not go well.

I played at #1 singles and lost 6-2, 6-1. I got whooped, but the scores don’t accurately reflect how close the match was. If I would have held serve every time we went to deuce on my serve, the scores would have been 4 and 3.

Still, my conditioning is terrible, affecting my footwork and ball-striking. And when you are not getting enough oxygen, it is hard to think.

Nonetheless, for my poor performance, I apologize to my coaches, Mad Dog and Glory, and all of my fans.

Postscript: In my second league match, playing at #1 singles, I won 6-3, 6-1. Turns out the first team I played against has gone to the state championships in each of the past 3 years, and have a number of what in golf would be called “sand baggers” (people playing below their actual ability level).

Breaking News — Home

Last weekend, on April 10th to be specific, we received an offer to purchase our house in Indiana. Of course, it is not sold until it passes inspection and goes to closing, but the prospect of uniting our family again is much better than it was a week ago. It’s hard to imagine, but the kids and I have been here in NC for four months. That’s a long time to be apart. That’s alot of pizza and corn dogs for the kids’ dinner.

There is no doubt that there was some divine intervention in the process. After three-plus months of no offers, my wife decided to look to a higher power. So, on Friday, she buried a statue of St. Joseph — Patron Saint of Home Sales — in the backyard and we both asked St. Joseph to intervene with the big guy for us. On Saturday, a couple came to see the house. On Sunday, they came back and made an offer. We countered, they countered, we countered again, and we settled on that.

Thanks be to St. Joseph!

What Happened to March?

OK, let’s just say that March was an insane month, so I’ve gotten a bit off track in terms of posting. Let me review.

First of all, three weeks of March were given over to spring break. Of course the spring break at Wake Forest University did not overlap with the kids’ spring break at school. So, I drove the kids back to Indiana in early March so they wouldn’t have to sit around the apartment all day long while I was at work. The day we arrived in Indiana, I dropped the kids off at home and left immediately for the airport to fly to Louisville for a meeting. I flew back the next day, spent the weekend at home, and had a chance to visit with a couple of OLU students, which was great. Then I spent a couple of days the next week at the playa’s club in Chicago – where I got to meet a Luvabull live and in person – then drove back to NC for a conference.

While the kids were away, I was busy organizing a professional meeting that is taking place in August. Over a hundred scholars will be participating in nearly 50 sessions. It was an organizational challenge, to be sure.

During this time, my father had a stroke. Since the kids were away I flew right away to California to visit with him. He is physically every well, though his speech is difficult and needs practice.

The week I got back from California I drove back to Indiana to pick up the kids. Over that weekend — Easter weekend — I loaded up a U-Haul with household junk to bring back to NC, watched an OLU baseball game and tennis match, and visited with a townie/OLU student at a local tavern.

Our first trip back to Indiana, the kids and I left March 2 and we finally arrived back on March 28. In between all of this traveling, I also had my regular teaching responsibilities, grading, and advising students.

Nothing creative or funny to say about it. It was just a brutal month.