The demise of In Loco Parentis

By Bill Taylor

It seems to me that, according to news reports of incidents and surveys, our country must be experiencing an outbreak of epidemic dimensions of sexual assaults on college coeds. So just what is meant by “sexual assault”? Well, the term as used by researchers includes the full spectrum of forced or uninvited sexual acts ranging from touching or kissing to forcible rape.

And how prevalent are these assaults? Studies and surveys vary, but a typical report covering women during their four years of college indicates that in their first year on campus, 31 percent of the women reported having experienced some type of sexual assault; 6.4 percent reported rape. In their fourth year some 24 percent reported being sexually assaulted; 3.9 percent reported rape. [Note: survey reports typically do not give breakdowns differentiating sexual assault by type nor by the actual number of rapes.]

Okay, what else? Well, a number of studies report that on average, at least 50 percent of college students’ sexual assaults are associated with alcohol use and researcher Koss reported that “74 percent of the perpetrators and 55 percent of the victims of rape in her nationally representative sample of college students had been drinking alcohol.” Other studies show that both campus sexual assault and rape have often occurred as a result of what is known as “hooking up” – particularly in a setting involving alcohol consumption. So for the uninitiated, what is “hooking up”?

Stacy Laura Lloyd in “Live About” defines hooking up as: “In the most basic sense, hooking up with someone means that you’re sexually intimate with him or her, yet this intimacy can range from kissing all the way to intercourse. To that end, hooking up … can be used to describe … sexually intimate acts that you engage in with someone else, but it doesn’t imply … you’re in relationship or are even dating this person. In addition, hooking up with someone can be a one-time occurrence or a type of ongoing sexual relationship that you have with him or her and/or with multiple people.” Multiple people? How about them apples?

You know, the college scene today is quite different from when my Sweetheart-for-Life and I ventured on campus way back in the last century. Although we went to different schools there was a marked similarity in that women lived in same sex residence halls while men lived in all-male residence halls, in fraternity houses, or in school approved off-campus housing. Access to the living quarters was restricted – no visiting by the opposite sex in either the women’s or men’s rooms. On-campus alcohol, including at fraternity houses, was prohibited, but off-campus establishments provided the opportunity to drink beer.

Women’s resident halls had a kinda reception area where guys could meet their dates, but these were not places where men could casually drop in to see if there were any women hanging around. In addition, women had weekday and weekend curfews – times they were required to be back in the residence hall.

This campus environment was based on the principle of in loco parentis, Latin for “in the place of a parent”, referring to the concept of the legal responsibility of a person or organization to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent – in this case the college or university.

This principle has largely disappeared in institutions of higher learning as a result of a variety of lawsuits and progressive “freedom” movements. Along with removal of many restrictions on personal behavior, results have included mixed-gender resident halls and “gender inclusive” suites where single men and women share living quarters. Presently, many college campuses are experiencing alcohol-fueled “hooking up” parties and other activities that reports indicate contribute to sexual assault including rape. Ah, progress.

You know what? Back in the day, there were plenty of opportunities for campus romance despite those archaic rules and restrictions. One big difference was that women were treated with courtesy and respect with the penalty for an unwanted caress or kiss being a slap in the face – not a charge of sexual assault.

Today, some small colleges and universities still maintain same sex resident halls, prohibit on-campus alcohol, and have similar “old fashioned” behavioral guidelines. At the same time their women enjoy up-to-date rights and activities. Interestingly enough, there are virtually no cases of sexual assault at these schools.. Kinda makes a body wonder if there is a connection. At least that’s how it seems to me.

By Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at [email protected]

Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at [email protected]