Over the past month or so, there has been quite a campus hullabaloo over the Anscombe Society’s proposed chastity center. I use “hullabaloo” instead of a word that sounds more orderly, because I believe this campus (once again) failed to adequately take advantage of potentially promising debate.
The question before the student body was whether it was “okay” for students who are opposed to pre-marital sex to have their own student support center. In order to answer this question, it seems to me to be fundamental to first discuss whether the experience of holding the particular view in question is such that a center would be appropriate. And to answer this consideration, it is necessary to consider the nature of the particular moral value the members of the Anscombe Society believe in. Questions about the nature of the particular position in sexual ethics is as relevant for the proposed chastity center, as questions about the nature of sexual orientation are for an LGBT Center—that is to say, very relevant. Indeed they seem essential.
So I was hoping for an interesting conversation about the nature of this moral value of chastity. Instead, the debate was focused on one of two questions, both astonishingly irrelevant to the debate: whether the campus culture is significantly enough opposed to Anscombe’s position on sexual ethics, and whether such a center would most benefit the student body in general. The point of the opposition’s arguments, I think, was that if the answer to these questions was no, then the center had no right to exist. However, neither of these objections should have been considered. Imagine, for example, if such questions were posed to gay students over the creation of the LGBT Center. Though in fact the answers would probably be the same, the same demographic challenging Anscombe’s center on these same terms would be quick to point out their irrelevance in defense of the LGBT Center.
Over time the issue died down, as all such debates do, but I cannot help but think this episode is symptomatic of a campus that not only is confused about the function of student centers, but also has trouble locating the real arguments at stake when confronted with school policies that dance around ethical values. Instead of engaging with the values at stake, the lifestyle in vogue enjoys acceptance by the majority, which nonchalantly quashes the argument of the minority opinion with half-hearted, generally off-topic charges.
It is with this in mind that I bring up the particular topic of focus in this magazine: gender-neutral housing. We have dedicated ourselves in the following pages to a critical examination of the real issues at stake behind this controversial new policy. An honest assessment of our examination will find that it is not necessarily a “conservative” argument per se, but rather a rational and focused one. It is an approach I wish we as a campus had employed in the chastity center debates. Hopefully, the results of our work will prove to be more productive than this alternative approach the student body has used that so clearly botched our ethical debates of the past.