Moral Decline

       Rutgers, a New Jersey State college, has joined the parade of moral dysfunction by approving what they term “gender-neutral” dorm rooms. In other words, students who feel “uncomfortable” living with roommates of the same sex can request roommates of the opposite sex. Ostensibly, this is designed to make homosexual students (or those of other alternative and atypical interests) more contented with their living arrangements so as to pre-empt tragedies such as last year’s suicide of an outed homosexual by his disapproving roommate. How this will prevent others from being similarly outed is a mystery, especially when they realize they are exposing themselves through the request itself. It is not uncommon for homosexuals to be persecuted by other homosexuals, struggling with their tendencies.

     This being a society that strives for fairness and equity in all spheres, Rutgers is unable to limit these options to the target group but must extend them to all. Thus, this gem (reported by “In a titillating perk for heterosexual students, the ability to request an opposite-sex roommate is open to any student; Rutgers has no plans to ask about the sexual preferences of the person requesting a roommate or about the nature of the roommate relationship.   Parents unhappy with such an unorthodox dorm-room living situation are pretty much out of luck since housing contracts are signed by students. “We won’t be talking to parents about this,” says (Joan) Carbone (Rutgers’ executive director of residence life).”

    Well, such an arrangement certainly enables the male to avoid the tedium, expense and occasional painful rebuffs of the dating world – of actually courting a woman in a romantic sense, as opposed to merely perceiving her as an instrument of gratification of his physical needs. With this new arrangement, already found in several schools (including my alma mater, Columbia), the would-be Lothario has a paramour in hand, assuming she is willing and interested. And, if she is not, there is always the possibility of getting a new, more accommodating roommate.

     Undoubtedly, this setup will appeal to two groups in the heterosexual world: males with an inflated sense of their charms (an enormous number) and females with a pronounced inferiority complex and lack of self-esteem (I trust a much smaller number). Indeed, no self-respecting girl should ever embrace such an arrangement, and couples already living in an informal relationship would do well to focus on their studies and not live together in a faux marriage that is unlikely to endure but most likely to hamper their pursuit of knowledge and a career. But is that really what today’s college experience promises ?

     Now, some might argue that it is possible for a man and woman to live together platonically, as friends and roommates but not lovers. Count me as old-fashioned. I am sure it is “possible,” but is it probable ? Is it even desirable ? There is something quite sad about the death of desire that is surely attributable to the casual flings and hookups that characterize the social lives of the young, the heightened sexuality of modern culture that robs the young of their youth and innocence, and the pervasiveness of promiscuity and immorality. To have young men and women capable of interacting without any sexual tension between them – without any flirtation or romantic interest – is depressing. It is no wonder that most men express frustration and disappointment in that realm, and seek experiences outside the framework of marriages and family. By the time they get married – in their 30’s, according to the most recent statistics – they have seen it all and done it all. There is nothing really that special about the wedding or the marriage, and no compelling reason why the latter should endure. So, it doesn’t, or leaves both parties aching for fulfillment of their real goals in life and their dreams of (how is this for old-fashioned?) love.

        The misery of modern romance perhaps explains another gloomy statistic. The World Health Organization recently reported that Americans are the Western world’s biggest drug users. More than 16% of Americans have used cocaine (the closest country in the same study was New Zealand, at a little over 4% – and they’re at the end of the world!), and a whopping 42% have used marijuana. It is no wonder; life itself – the joys of spouses, families, conjugal pleasures, faith and friends – holds little long-term and persistent attraction. The “highs” can only be obtained artificially, and not in the real world. Furthermore, the array of lifestyle choices that is presented as “normal” has left many young people frustrated and sexually confused about something that should be natural and innate. Both the traumas of youth (that undoubtedly plays a role in their personal bewilderment) and the angst of adolescence are washed away through drink or drugs, but of course do not resolve the underlying issues that fester and eat away at their core.

      The modern university is not a citadel of ideas but a laboratory of social and sexual experimentation, a moral cesspool in which traditional values are mocked and traditional people are ill-at-ease. The Torah, which in any one chapter offers greater insight into human nature than one will find in any tome studied in university or in any of the tenured geniuses who teach there, recognizes the instinctual drives that shape the personality and therefore present the greatest moral challenge in life, but something else as well: to give free license to one’s instinctual nature does not deepen our enjoyment of physical pleasure but diminishes it – even deadens it.

       Thus have we become so desensitized to male-female pleasure that educators at distinguished universities can be so clueless as to the consequences of opposite-sex roommates. Thus have we been inundated with the necessity of mainstreaming homosexuality into our moral universe that those in charge of our children’s “residence life” on campus – for which the parents footing the bill may not be consulted – play matchmaker in a puzzle of ill-fitting parts.

    It should certainly make any parent think three or four times about the perils of secular college, which in one month can undo the effects of fifteen years (at an expense of hundreds of thousands of dollars) of yeshiva education. The yetzer hara (the part of man that pursues instinctual pleasure) is wily enough even when properly restrained; it is simply uncontrollable when the illicit is given free rein and provided the imprimatur of virtue and self-actualization. That is the death of any moral aspirations, as well as a certain way to deprive the participant of the capacity to experience any real pleasure. It also does not really enhance, or fulfill the essential purpose, of attending college.

     Perhaps those who wish to “take back” America can set these as worthwhile objectives, in addition to getting government off our backs and out of our pockets:  to end America’s dependence on narcotics, alcohol and other stimulants as the mediums of “pleasure,” to reclaim modesty, chastity and purity as educational goals and not merely as preachers’ tools, and to shun the purveyors of debauchery that has insidiously raided our homes and hearts and left many without the ability to feel, or even to recognize decadence for what it is.

     Indeed, the most troubling aspect of this policy is that its progenitors perceive it as enlightened instead of perverse. If that is so, then the decline of the American university is probably unstoppable, and new sources of moral instruction and scholastic enlightenment are needed for America to regain its path. The news that Brigham Young University has suspended its star basketball  player on the eve of the NCAA tournament for violating the school’s honor code (how delightfully quaint is that term!) by having pre-marital sex with his girlfriend underscores the magnitude of religion-based education as the only vehicle for inculcating a morality that transcends fads, trends and rationalizations. (The player was contrite in his apology to his teammates, something else unimaginable in a secular setting where the player would have been lauded for his personal choices and sued for reinstatement.)

      A secular university not only won’t foster traditional morality, but simply can’t. It is essentially incapable of speaking that language; hence the constant lowering of the moral bar to appeal to people’s baser and more tawdry instincts, and the popular “rating” of universities for their partying and drinking. As the BYU football coach explained this week, sort of: “I don’t know that those not inclined to understand, will ever understand.” Indeed.

7 responses to “Moral Decline

  1. When someone else pays, anything goes.
    How many young people who work at low-paying jobs in order to afford college would value this social nonsense, much less being harangued about the evils of capitalism in the classroom?

  2. It’s unclear to me what exactly you think is going to happen here.

    Are unattached Lotharios going to try to get into these dorms so they can hook up with randomly assigned roommates (it’s unclear from the article if that’s even possible, but I’ll assume it is)? If so, they’ll probably be disappointed since most (if not all) of the women who sign up (especially without a specific roommate in mind), will be lesbians, which at a minimum should provide Mr. Lothario with a valuable lesson in how far his charms can get him.

    Or is the problem that your self-confident guy who already lives in close proximity to his girlfriend will decide that the best way to take advantage of the hedonist paradise that modern college life offers is to move in with his insecure girlfriend? This does not track human experience in the slightest.

    These living arrangements will likely appeal to two types of people: Gays, who I find it impossible to imagine you think should be forced to live with either other homosexuals or heterosexuals of their own gender, and heterosexuals who are already in committed sexual relationships, for whom living together will at least foster monogamy.

    So long as there are gay students at Rutgers, what arrangement could be less perverse?

  3. What ever happened to college as a place to study and learn ? You perceive college as a place of sexual indulgence, and all else is subservient to that goal. That attitude is prevalent, sadly.

  4. I’m a proud YU grad, suffice it to say, that’s not how I perceive college.

    College can be a place to study and learn, but so long as it’s also a place where people have roommates who are not their spouses, there needs to be a way for homosexual students at least have the option to not share showers with people of the same sex, especially considering what happened last year. It’s also not practical to insist that any students looking to enter these rooms declare their sexual orientation first or have parental permission.

    No one suggests that sexual indulgence is a goal at Rutgers. I have no idea what would give you the idea that it was. And, as I said above, if anything, the opposite is the more likely outcome.

  5. Jordan Hirsch

    I agree with so me things in this post, disagree with others. But I think it is interesting that you write about this the same week as an article in the NYT that discusses a study showing the time spent by the average college student studying (I think the number was 5 hours a week) as drastically lower than 40 years ago.

  6. I do not wish to minimize at all the moral challenges of the college campus, or to promote mixed-gender dorms, but the idea that one month of secular college can “undo the effects of fifteen years of yeshiva education” is an extremely damning statement about the effectiveness of our chinuch efforts. If the yeshiva world isn’t preparing its graduates to handle the “real world,” what use is it?

  7. Good question. It does an adequate job for most people; of course, do not underestimate the influence of the parental home, for good and bad. But some will succumb at the first exposure to the “real world,” others will succumb to peer pressure. Do yeshivot properly prepare its graduates for that ? I am not convinced that they do. And given the popularity of mechinot in Israel for a pre-army year of preparation, it doesn’t sound like Israeli high school yeshivot do much better.
    Perhaps, as always, it comes down to the person’s free choice, which is not fully tested until they confront moral challenges outside the walls of the yeshiva. But when the environment around you is telling you that there is no such thing as “immorality,” and “do what feels good,” and the general ambience is devoid of kedusha – and even respect for traditional values – it might be asking much of a 20 year old to be oblivious to it or ostracize himself from his peers. Hence the warning.