On Fordham University’s Bizarre “Cohabitation” Policy


The overnight guest policy employed by Fordham has been the subject of much scrutiny by residents. (COURTESY OF CLASSIC FILM/FLICKR)


At Fordham University, administrators tend to adopt fairly conservative economic and social policies under the guise of Jesuit values and Catholic morality. While I vehemently disagree with certain principles under Catholic doctrine (such as lack of access to women’s healthcare, hesitancy to accept LGBTQ rights and, the particular issue in question here, sexual abstinence), it is not the principles themselves which I am attempting to argue here. I am referring in particular to a rule ardently implemented on both the Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses, a rule so well-known to students and staff it has been nicknamed the “cohabitation” rule.

For a bit of background, the “cohabitation” rule as written in the Residential Life Handbook of Lincoln Center’s campus proceeds as follows: “Undergraduate residents may host no more than 2 overnight guests of the same sex at a time for two nights within a seven-day period. Law residents may host no more than 2 overnight guests of either sex for two nights within a seven-day period… In order to obtain a guest pass, a resident must present their valid Fordham ID, must know their guest’s full name, home address, date of birth, and emergency contact number. Law and graduate students are permitted to request same night guest passes.”

While the obtuseness of this rule is admittedly well-hidden in its bureaucratic language, let’s take a moment and dissect what this rule actually means, and what enforcing it actually looks like. As Fordham students, we are not allowed to obtain guest passes, which are required for an overnight guest, unless the person is the “same-sex” as the student (exceptions are made for family). In theory, this rule would prevent the Catholic sin of “cohabitation” (a funky religious term made up to describe sex and intimate romantic relationships outside of marriage). In practice, it looks quite a bit different.

For one, the policy is implemented in such a way that if someone is signed in without an overnight guest pass (regardless of sex), they must be signed out by 3:30 a.m. or else the undergraduate student will incur a fine which increases in value based upon number of repeat offenses. The scale of fines begins at $15, and increases by $15 every time (so the fines go from $15, to $30, to $45, and so on). We as undergraduate students are not allowed, at all, to obtain guest passes for “opposite-sex” guests, and must obtain passes for “same-sex” guests the night before. Upon rumination on this fact, I began to wonder whether or not Fordham might have ulterior motives to their “cohabitation” doctrine in implementing this rule.

While the guise of the policy is the protection of marriage and abstinence against premarital sex, it is clearly just a ruse for a few reasons. The policy disallowing opposite sex guests is not implemented for any graduate student. Undergraduate students, on the other hand, are allowed to have opposite-sex guests signed into the dormitory until 3:30 a.m., presumably providing ample time for any “cohabitation” they wish to engage in. After this time, any student who has a guest over without a guest pass will incur a fine. The time of 3:30 a.m. was negotiated a few years ago as some sort of compromise between undergraduate students and administration, which further indicates that this rule is malleable. In addition, every floor in both McKeon and McMahon Hall is co-ed (with the exception of Floors 11 and 22 in McKeon, which are all female purely due to the gender disparity at the Lincoln Center campus). If Fordham’s administrators were actually concerned with “cohabitation,” they would never allow law students or graduate students to abide by different rules, or allow students to live on co-ed floors.

Considering this, it is quite perplexing to me why Fordham would even continue this rule. Upon further examination though, it became quite clear why Fordham has a vested interest in keeping this archaic rule: Fordham continues to receive a sizable portion of their donations from conservative, religious alumni who often tend to have more say in the administrative procedures at school than the students (ex. this particular policy has been advocated against by Fordham students for decades, with no result). To be clear, Fordham’s “cohabitation” policy is also a subtle comment on LGBTQ relationships, as the rule implies either that same-sex people are not capable of “cohabitation,” or that Fordham simply does not have the same dogmatic and inappropriate interest in the sex lives of straight students as it does of LGBTQ students.

Fordham stands to make a considerable financial gain from this rule, as many undergraduate students frequently either forget or blatantly disregard this inconvenient and intrusive rule when having their partners over, and subsequently are fined in increasingly higher amounts. While I do not have access to documents stating the exact amount of money Fordham gains per year by implementation of this policy, a conservative estimation of the much smaller Lincoln Center campus shows that Residential Life could be making upwards of $10,000 a year on this policy alone (this was done by assuming an average of a $12.50 fine per each of the 800-some residents at Fordham University Lincoln Center. This is a rough estimation of the fine, but includes the fact that many students will not incur a cohabitation fine while others could incur fines totalling $90 for just three violations).

This policy clearly benefits no one other than Fordham administrators who stand to gain increased respect from donors and money from fines. College students, even collectively, cannot afford to fork over this kind of money, especially when attending one of the most expensive private colleges in the country in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Fordham’s “cohabitation” policy is not a moral rule based upon Catholic doctrine, and it is vital that we as students and administrators together end this anachronistic rule, and establish guest policies that are sex and gender inclusive and non-discriminatory by age or school.