November 13, 2009

A big religion-themed dorm for the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

It will be a private dorm, part of Pres House, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, so we are not dealing with the constitutional problem of tax money flowing into a religious organization. Still, the Freedom From Religion Foundation — which is based here in Madison — expresses concern, through its president Annie Laurie Gaylor:
"It creates walls between students, this idea that they need to be protected from the real world and cocooned together... Is that really why you come to a university, to be with people like yourself?"

Kelsey Wolff, a member of the student ministry at the Pres House, said it wasn't that simple. Wolff, who will be a senior this fall, said she had a hard time in the "party dorm" she was assigned as an underclassman and would have appreciated a faith-based option.

And Wolff said the idea of a separate dorm for students who wish to focus on religious issues didn't mean those students had to segregate themselves from campus life. Students in the new dorm, she said, will take classes, go to ball games, explore State Street and join campus organizations, just like any other student.

"They're still going to get all of that exposure, but at the end of the day they're going to be able to come home," she said. "They'll just have their space where they're away from that."
The university already has "specialized dorms or floors within dorms where like-minded students can live together, including those with a foreign language immersion or a math and science focus." Is there something wrong with these specialized dorms — or with some types of specialized dorms? Is it wrong for students to want a home base that's somewhat cocoony? But not all students who choose themed dorms are trying to replicate their childhood homes. Some seek the challenge of adapting to a new environment. Consider the foreign language dorms. Sometimes it's part of trying to excel in your studies: They want to be near people who are taking the same courses.

But the religious dorm creates the impression that the students are trying to live among less sinful people — or at least among people who will feel guilty about sinning. Is there something wrong with that? But is that what's going on with the new UW dorm?
Pres House board member Tom Schwei said the new dorm would be open to students from any and all faiths, not just Christian ones. Residents won't be required to take part in any of the planned programs -- such as informal discussions about religion, mission trips on academic breaks or weekly church services -- but they should expect to have them offered, Schwei said.
Well, then, what is it all about? The dorm is looks as though it will really nice, and the location is fabulous.  And what are Presbyterians going to do to you, anyway?
"It's not going to be a high pressure environment," he said. "But people shouldn't be too fooled. There is a Presbyterian church sitting right next door. They're going to hear some Presbyterian singing. We are going to continue to grow."
Ha ha. Presbyterian singing.  Look out. I remember it from my youth, when my family went to Presbyterian church. My father was a terrible singer — despite the fact that he looked like Frank Sinatra — and he sang very loud. I thought good singing was loud singing. Imagine how embarrassed I was when I found out that was not the case — and that I too was a bad singer!

Anyway, the Presbyterian days ended when I was about 10 years old, and we moved to a new neighborhood where there was a new church, an Episcopalian church, with a young vicar who befriended everyone including my parents. He was convivial, so we became Episcopalians.
Schwei said the "core" of the new dorm experience would be "personal discovery."

"Being in college is a period of self-exploration and learning and discovery," he said. "We would like to facilitate that for people who are really interested in doing that seriously."
That's awfully nice. I appreciate the super-nice religious sects. And I'm glad the students are getting a nice new option among all the many Madison options.

72 comments:

TMink said...

"Is that really why you come to a university, to be with people like yourself?"

Now that is a fair minded, cogent question. If you let this stand, next thing you know there would be a black student union, a women's center, special accomodations for Muslims, dogs and cats living together, etc. It would be complete bedlam and the FFR is so right to point this out.

Trey
wv=bulocra which is very close to the bullcrap from the FFR

Triangle Man said...

"Is that really why you come to a university, to be with people like yourself?"

Perhaps they come to a University to exercise their right of free association for the first time.

Paddy O. said...

"Presbyterians" dorm?

The crappy thing is that even all the people who want to get a room in the dorm probably won't, with only a select few being chosen to live there. And even they won't know who they are until the final moment!

Shanna said...

We had three floors for honors students in my dorm. I don't think we had any religious themed dorms, but we did have one dorm that was all female (all the others were co-ed), and that was pretty much the place for people who's parents didn't want them living with men, which tended to be the more religious (some christian, some muslim, etc..).

I suspect that if this dorm is nicer than the others, some people will go there just for that reason, negating the whole christian vibe they're going for.

k*thy said...

"That's awfully nice."

Why did I picture and hear Dana Carey's 'Church Lady' when I read that?

Actually, I think this dorm is a good idea. You're right, it's got a primo location and the Pres House has a decent reputation in town. No doubt, too, it'll be a big hit a lot of freshmen parents.

Scott M said...

I was always under the impression that "personal discovery" happened around puberty and that "discovering others" was what college is for.

That being said, at least from a male point of view, I believe the consensus is that there's never enough, (or always room for more) "personal discovery...unless you start to chafe. Then you have take a week off.

David said...

"I appreciate the super-nice religious sects."

That's why I find it so sad that so many people have trouble with the Mormons. My experience with Mormans has been extremely positive--dependable, reliable, energetic and decent people.

I find some of their beliefs a little strange but others--there are angels among us--charming and hopeful. I'm not required to like all their beliefs to like them.

JohnAnnArbor said...

U of Mich had "substance-free" halls when I was there in the '90s. And honors halls. A few were both.

Interesting to note that the demand for regular substance-free halls exceeded supply, but that the honors ones "stuck" in the substance-free halls wanted them to be "regular" again in some cases.

Quayle said...

"... this idea that they need to be protected from the real world and cocooned together..

So, being blato throw-up-on-yourself drunk, bonging pot till your IQ drops 30 points, stumbling around knocking things over looking for your cigarette lighter, randomly hooking up with multiple partners, getting an STD before you're 21.

That's the "real world"?

Fact is, that's the biggest cocoon ever - it never changes and it never gets more interesting.

John said...

"It creates walls between students, this idea that they need to be protected from the real world and cocooned together... Is that really why you come to a university, to be with people like yourself?"

Is it really any hers or anyone else's business why people come to college and what they do with their money? Yeah, maybe atheists and other assorted nitwits who run around denying the abyss to be annoying. Maybe it is a free country and they are allowed to do that.

JohnAnnArbor said...

What will the Islamic dorm be like?

Joe said...

Some people actually go to university to be educated and want a way to avoid all the bullshit that gets in the way of that.

Alex said...

If religious dorms offend you, write back to me when the black & Muslim dorms have been discontinued.

rocketeer67 said...

Wow. These are clearly not the same heretic-hangin' High Church Presbyterians that my forebears would recognize.

Unless there are gallows for the Papists in the quad that aren't mentioned in the article?

Donna B. said...

Paddy O -- haha, how true :-)

exhelodrvr1 said...

" And what are Presbyterians going to do to you, anyway?"

They're the ones who behead people from other denominations, right?

Roux said...

I'm sure they'd be fine with an all islamic jihad dorm.

Mary Martha said...

This doesn't seem all that strange. I know there are several universities that have dorms run by the Catholic Newman Center. The one at University of Illinois has 600 students living in it. I believe there is even some thought of building one at UW Madison when they rebuild St. Paul's.

Old RPM Daddy said...

"It creates walls between students, this idea that they need to be protected from the real world and cocooned together... Is that really why you come to a university, to be with people like yourself?"

Gee, three unsubstantiated assertions in the first sentence. That may be a new record! In any case, Ms. Gaylor fails to explain why, even if the students are sheltered and cocooned, it's necessarily such a bad thing. Furthermore, if dorm life were remotely like the real world, we could be expected to be randomly assigned houses, apartments, spouses, children, and pets after graduation.

By the way, when I was in school, I'd heard that Wisconson was considered the top party school in the Big 10. We were somewhere near the bottom, I guess.

Scott said...

Isn't the First Amendment at issue here?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I would think that freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and the right to peaceably assemble trump any other consideration here.

Roux said...

Next thing you know they'll have a Methodist dorm. They'll start having pot luck dinners with tuna casserole. Oh the horror!!!

Alex said...

I wonder what they're doing at the Muslims dorm. Plotting jihad, perhaps?

Paddy O. said...

And we all know there will be a major conference about whether or not to allow a gay RA. Half the dorm will be for it and half will be against it.

In forty years or so they might get around to finally deciding after several committees have done studies.

Meanwhile, in the Episcopal dorm the Cointreau will be flowing and all sexual preferences will be encouraged. However, international students will not approve and will boycott the Episcopals dorm. Which will be a problem because this dorm will only be a quarter full anyhow.

miller said...

Do universities have nothing else do to do but worry about this stuff?

Don't they need to like, you know, teach?

Synova said...

Althouse... My dad figured that everyone should sing loud and he's a bit of a music snob. (When I was a kid he'd sit at the piano and we'd "practice" holding a note true while he played keys half a note up or down from it.) Plus we were the sort of Lutherans who expected regular people to *read* music and take advantage of SATB *written* music and not just have the words or the melody line during regular congregational singing.

He said, people who could sing, should sing loud so that those who can't sing will feel confident to sing out.

People who can't sing, should sing loud so that those who can sing will sing a little louder.

Make a joyful NOISE, after all!

Paddy O. said...

I hear there was, in the interest of ecumenical equity, also talk about having a Pentecostals dorm. However, they found that the few Pentecostals who did think an education important would not consent to being boxed in. So, the plans were dumped. Which is fortunately because there was a definite increase of fire risk for this dorm.

miller said...

Maybe the FFR foundation can change their name to a more accurate one, "Freedom from Common Sense."

former law student said...

FYI: Former YMCA schools like Northeastern and Golden Gate started as religion-themed dorms, and then became universities.

traditionalguy said...

Presbos are laid back and accept all opinions from all comers, although they have a Confession or two of their own , but they do not hold anyone else to them. My family was Episcopalian and we ended up in a Presbyterian church. Think of the parents in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Most members are former Episcopalians, and former Baptists, and former Methodists drawn by the freedom to express educated thought and lack of legalism. As to doctrine, check out Ken Boa on Google. Christianity only works in groups of people who accept and love one another, but keep a safe structure too. The church government is by Elders elected in 100% democratic elections.

reader_iam said...

Meanwhile, in the Episcopal dorm the Cointreau will be flowing and all sexual preferences will be encouraged. However, international students will not approve and will boycott the Episcopals dorm. Which will be a problem because this dorm will only be a quarter full anyhow.


LOL.

Quayle said...

That's why I find it so sad that so many people have trouble with the Mormons.

Not sure that Brigham Young would agree.

As he once said, "...I am satisfied that it will not do for the Lord to make this people popular. Why? Because all hell would want to be in the Church."

"Being driven from city to city or into the mountains is nothing compared to the danger of our becoming rich and being hailed by outsiders as a first-class community."

Triangle Man said...

Isn't the First Amendment at issue here?

In what sense? It is a private dorm.

Andrea said...

The more I hear about the whole traditional American college experience, the more I'm glad I stayed at home and went to community college.

Re the whole idea that college is where American kids finally get to meet other people "unlike themselves." Where the hell do people who say this come from, Alpha Centauri Prime? By the time the average American kid goes to college he's been warehoused with hundreds of other kids, few of them "like" himself. I grew up in Miami, Florida and went to public school. By the time I graduated high school I was ready for a year off from all those fascinating, amazing, wonderful people and have some time to myself for once. (I suppose that is "cocooning" myself with someone "like myself.")

Gina said...

"Is that really why you come to a university, to be with people like yourself?"

...asks the spokesperson of "Freedom From Religion"

Ba-dump-bump!

Nuance.

ricpic said...

And what are Presbyterians going to do to you, anyway?

Threaten you with respectability?

DADvocate said...

"Is that really why you come to a university, to be with people like yourself?"

The purpose of going to college to to learn to act and behave as the FFRF and other freedom loving lefties say you should.

But the religious dorm creates the impression that the students are trying to live among less sinful people...

I don't see that. It's simply students preferring to live in an environment in which their religion is respected and supported. I know nothing about Presbyterians' specific beliefs vs other Christian sects but, in general, Christianity teaches that all people are sinners thus considering yourself less sinful than others (which I'm aware some do) is contrary to Christian teaching.

bearbee said...

Need to establish the Freedom From Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFFFRF).

Old RPM Daddy said...

Didja hear about the Lutheran dorm? The place burned down, and Ernie Turnquist risked his life to save the coffee maker! This was the same kid who thought the first three books of the Bible were Genesis, Exodus, Lutefisk...

Sorry, read those somewhere.

WV = ouskshe, which I think is that place in Wisconsin where they make the overalls.

Scott said...

@Triangle Man: In the sense that there is any controversy at all. A Presbyterian-sponsored dorm should be the most non-controversial thing in the world. Have our values drifted so far from the ideals of the First Amendment that any responsible person would question the dorm's propriety?

Scott said...

Which reminds me: Oral Roberts University's publishing house had a CD label at one time.

But they had to shut it down.

The holes kept healing.

TMink said...

What I resent is that the FFM do not have the testicles to just say what they mean: This is a religious dorm and we are against religion.

Is that so hard? Man up FFM, quit using specious logic and complaints. Be who you say you are.

And I will be who I am and pray that God saves your souls. Can I come to a FFM meeting and try to convert you?

Trey
wv = propa

Henry said...

It's BYU for Presbyterians.

Triangle Man said...

Where the hell do people who say this come from, Alpha Centauri Prime?

Wisconsin. The difference between urban and rural public schools is large.

Scott said...

Madison Wisconsin is rural?

kcom said...

Tim Blair has been on to the Presbyterians and their terrorist proclivities for years now.

Link 1

Link 2

They're not fooling everyone.

k*thy said...

Scott - no, but it's within spitting distance.

Rialby said...

I wonder how the Jews will be received in the Presbyterian dorm considering that, like most mainline Protestant churches in the 21st century, they're anti-Israel and not all that fond of the Hebrews. For anyone keeping score, that's because they're Leftists not because they're Christians.

charlotte said...

"I appreciate the super-nice religious sects."

To be pronounced carefully. Or not.

Ah, ah, ah AH-men.

Triangle Man said...

@Scott

Wisconsin is mostly rural.

traditionalguy said...

Rialby...Good point. There is a lingering anti-semitism under the surface in the English Catholic to Anglican to Presbyterian and Methodist ways of viewing the world. And the PCUSA bureaucrats are as bad as anybody in Academia these days, but the individual congregations are self governing and nearly free of that blight as a rule.

c3 said...

protected from the real world and cocooned together
Isn't that the definition of college?

class-factotum said...

Lutherans and lutefisk. The piece of cod that passes all understanding.

rhhardin said...

The local university has a women's dorm named Beaver Hall, which I assume is from a donor's name.

I was walking the dog down one of the sidewalks when a parent's car stopped and asked where Burke Hall was.

``Kenneth or Edmund?'' I asked.

They didn't know.

``Well, you probably want Edmund,'' and gave the directions to what was actually the only Burke hall.

An extra turn is sometimes called for by the circumstances.

This thread is brought to you from wondering if the religious dorm is co-ed.

Paddy O. said...

"wondering if the religious dorm is co-ed."

Yes, but only men are allowed to speak.

Kirk Parker said...

"Presbyterian singing. "

Totally beyond the pale. You are aware that they don't clap, but if they do, they clap on the downbeats?

reader_iam said...

Kirk: My husband, a former Presbyterian (with no hostility towards Presbyterians, however), does a hilarious routine involving "This Little Light of Mine" and, among other things, clapping on the downbeats. So I loved your comment.

peter hoh said...

When I went to college, I was mostly interested in a dorm free of alcohol-induced vomit.

bean said...

Good collegiate Calvinists know it's about meeting the right girls.

kentuckyliz said...

This is a boon for U Dub.

The finicky religious kids sneering at living with the drunken barfing fornicators will go live in their own dorm, rather than transfer to a religious school to get away from the heathens.

I heard all the chicks were presbians.

Jason said...

Peter:

Why?

Ann Althouse said...

"Meanwhile, in the Episcopal dorm the Cointreau will be flowing and all sexual preferences will be encouraged."

Wow! How funny! I almost mentioned in the post that my father and the vicar once consumed an entire bottle of Cointreau. That was a famous anecdote in my family for some reason.

Ann Althouse said...

What is it with Episcopalians and Cointreau???

Chase said...

Paddy O. is on fire today!

JAL said...

a select few being chosen to live there

Heh. They were pedestined, of course.

And what about the Greek Life? They go home to waht they want. And they are chosen.

Libs need to get a life.

Harriet said...

Paddy O. - Husband wonders why I am giggling.

But seriously, that dorm had better not have Pelagian windows.

"Rialby said...

I wonder how the Jews will be received in the Presbyterian dorm considering that, like most mainline Protestant churches in the 21st century, they're anti-Israel and not all that fond of the Hebrews. For anyone keeping score, that's because they're Leftists not because they're Christians.


It's true that the liberal Presbyterian church is full of leftists. But, that's not all that gets in the way of being anti-Israel. The covenant theology of the Presbyterians is not pro-Israel in the same way as the dispensationalist Baptists and Pentecostals. The Presbyterians see the God of the Old Testament in exactly the same light as the God of the New, and see Christians as His covenant children.

The Baptists and Pentecostals think there is a special dispensation for the Jews and so we should treat them and their nation with kid gloves. The Presbyterians think a changeless God fulfilled everything in Jesus.

However, the conservative Presbyterian denominations (not the mainline church) tend to be very pro-USA and conservative politically. So they tend to see national security as a good thing separate from the theology.

I do believe if the protestant denominations that gave so much to Israel had spent the last fifty years evangelizing the Muslims instead, it might have proved more helpful for Israel's peace.

PatCA said...

A cocoon comes in handy when you're trying to, you know, study.

RJO said...

"Against theme halls."

Conserve Liberty said...

Meanwhile, in the Episcopal dorm the Cointreau will be flowing and all sexual preferences will be encouraged. However, international students will not approve and will boycott the Episcopals dorm. Which will be a problem because this dorm will only be a quarter full anyhow.

As they say, put 4 Episcopalians in a dorm and you can always find a fifth.

FWIW, I attended The University of Virginia just a year or two after women were first admitted as undergraduates (1972-1976). Dorms had three floors; the upper floor was reserved for women, doors were locked and student "monitors" were posted in the lobby.

The restrooms were not modified for many years - the "male" porcelain was used to rinse underthings.

Gender cocooning seems no longer available on college campuses. My older daughter was forced to live in a mixed-gender dorm (as in, men and women on the same hall), including the showers and facilities.

The first week or two they called out their gender before entering, then everybody just gave up and dealt with wet towels.

I dare say, as an Episcopalian herself, she might rather have dealt with Presbyterians.

Shanna said...

Gender cocooning seems no longer available on college campuses. My older daughter was forced to live in a mixed-gender dorm (as in, men and women on the same hall), including the showers and facilities.

That sucks. Our dorms were mixed gender, but they were like little apartments (they were probably converted into dorms from apartments, actually). You had your little suite with your own bathroom, but guys were right across the hall.

Kirk Parker said...

reader, where's the link to youtube???

ken in sc said...

You did not say if it was PCA, PCUSA, ARP, Evangelical Pres., Reformed Evangelical Pres. or Comberland Pres., it makes a lot of difference.

ken in sc said...

I forgot to include the Free Presbyterian Church.