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“We have policies where there’s open dorms,” Mr. Holtgren said. “They have lounges in all the buildings, and most of them are open until midnight.”

Mr. Holtgren said that even though there are no coed buildings on campus, the generous curfew gives the male and female students a lot of room to interact.

Ms. Candelaresi said a diversity of choices is key.

“If every university in the U.S. decided to make this change, it might be irritating, but I guess I still feel like there would be ways kids can sneak around the rules,” she said. “And I guess the big question is, can students live in off-campus housing after their freshman or sophomore year, because then there are a whole new set of freedoms.”

Mr. Garvey, a former dean of the law school at Boston College who has headed Catholic University for a year, told the Catholic News Service he was surprised but pleased by the response he has gotten since announcing the change.

“I think it touched a cultural nerve,” he said.