California sex-on-campus bill shows that universities should get out of the housing business

Newspapers are alive with stories (e.g., the Guardian) about California’s unanimously passed bill requiring each public college in the state to “adopt a policy concerning sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking”. Nobody seems to be asking the question “Should colleges run dorms?” If colleges got rid of the dorms, they could concentrate on teaching and not on complying with state and federal mandates regarding sex, a subject on which there is no evidence that university administrators are more expert than laypeople.

What to do with surplus on-campus dorms? Either sell off the real estate so that the former dormitories are no longer “on campus” or turn what had been dorms into collaborative study/lab spaces. Maybe students would work harder if they lived in a mixed-age commercial apartment building and saw the dreary jobs for which average college graduates depart every morning at 8:30 a.m. And certainly a student in a commercial apartment building who is the victim of a crime won’t waste his or her time calling a university administrator who will refer to a new state-mandated policy. He or she will dial 911 and people who actually know something about crime and criminals will show up.

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

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