Dear Amy Poehler, A&S ‘93,
This isn’t my first time writing a letter to a celebrity. This isn’t your first time getting a letter from a Boston College student. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, it is time to get down to business.
Last year, a BC student reached out to you in hopes that you would deliver the Boston College Class of 2012 Commencement Speech, yet this didn’t pan out. Across campus, students speculated over what went wrong. Did the letter never reach you? Did the ceremony overlap with Archie’s t-ball game? Were you too busy plotting your path to world domination with Tina Fey? For the sake of the universe, I hope the last one is right.
For me, one theory about your absence stuck out the most. According to complete and utter hearsay, you refuse to speak at BC until administrators change their policies on contraception by making birth control available to students through health services. This could be false, but given that you went back to Saturday Night Live for an evening to call Congress out on their archaic treatment of these issues, I’m going to go ahead and assume that you aren’t a fan of BC’s current policies.
Well, they just got worse.
To sum it up, in response to the university’s failure to provide students with access to contraception or sexual health information, a group of students decided to form Boston College Students for Sexual Health back in 2009. As part of their mission to keep our student body safe and informed, BCSSH created Safe Sites — locations around campus where students can pick up free resources, from male and female condoms to informative materials on sexual decision-making. They also hand out condoms on campus every month, along with flyers about where students can find further information.
BCSSH is not officially registered as a student organization, so their funding is entirely separate from BC. In short, they’re just a bunch of smart, caring individuals who would like to see their peers graduate free of sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies.
Last week, administrators contacted individual members of BCSSH, specifically those whose addresses were listed as Safe Sites on the group’s website, to inform them that if they did not shut down the Safe Sites immediately BC would take disciplinary action.
Let’s back it up for a second and look at one of the signatures on the letter: Dean of Students Paul Chebator. Overall, Dean Chebator has a reputation around campus for being a reasonable, dare I say progressive figure at our university, and I won’t venture to question his role in the letter’s execution. Instead, I want to look at the group that he represents, and what it means to have the Office of the Dean of Students (DOS) come down on an organization such as BCSSH.
According to a message from the DOS, “The Dean of Students holds students to a very high standard of academic and personal behavior that will respect the community standards inherent to a Catholic, Jesuit institution. We want students to learn to make wise and responsible decisions based upon personal reflection and communication with peers and mentors. The world needs leaders for tomorrow. The Office of the Dean of Students helps students develop the skills and qualities that will allow them to provide this leadership.”
It comes as no surprise that people who mention the community standards of a Catholic, Jesuit institution in their message don’t love the idea of sexually active students. But when you look beyond DOS’s comment about Jesuit community standards and consider their desire to breed wise, responsible leaders, it seems bonkers, yes bonkers, that these people aren’t commending the members of BCSSH for their dedication to student development.
As I learned in Season 5, Episode 4 of Parks and Recreation, “Sex Education,” people are going to have sex whether they have access to contraception or not. What I’m saying is that there is a serious chance that even if the Safe Sites go away, BC students might just continue to break the anti-cohabitation rules set in place by Res Life on day one of freshman year. It’s almost as if BCSSH’s free condoms don’t beg people to have sex, but rather encourage people to do it safely.
And sure, a large portion of the population of BC can afford to buy their own condoms. That isn't the point. Does it matter to the freshman who thinks she may have contracted an STD? Does it matter to the student who is questioning his sexuality and no longer has a door that he can knock on to be provided with both support and information? Does it matter to the girl who has no idea where to begin when it comes to buying condoms at CVS, but feels safer knowing she has one in her bedside table just in case? By shutting down BCSSH's safe sites, BC is destroying the only resource for students who want and need information or support for literally any type of issue involving sexual health.
Going back to the DOS’s aforementioned statement, it is a shame that members of this administrative office aren’t embracing the minds behind BCSSH. If they truly “want students to learn to make wise and responsible decisions based upon personal reflection and communication with peers and mentors,” part of that decision-making should include those decisions of the sexual nature. Even if the decision is — gasp! — to have sex with a consenting partner using effective contraception. The people who operate Safe Sites are the exact kinds of peers and mentors that the DOS puts on a pedestal for helping students learn to make wise and responsible decisions. It is the existence of the decision that administrators have a problem with, not the people who help facilitate the healthiest response to the decision.
This brings me to my final point, a point that matches up with the DOS's message: “The world needs leaders for tomorrow.” Yes it does. Now, which of these people are more likely to become leaders for tomorrow: the couple fooling around in Duchesne that thinks that “pulling out” is a solid way to keep from getting pregnant, or the students who volunteer their time and energy to provide their peers with resources in hopes that friends and strangers alike will make the right sexual decisions for themselves? These are the future educators. These are the future policy reformers. These are the people who deserve praise, not punishment.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, Amy, you’re sort of just the Trojan horse for my own message, which is that BC needs groups like BCSSH to provide students with a different kind of Trojan altogether. While I usually write letters to celebrities that offer unsolicited advice, this time, I’m asking you to help us. Sign this petition. Tell Boston College that they’re wrong. Tell Boston College Students for Sexual Health — especially the residents of the Safe Sites — that they’re right.
And then, when you’re done, maybe consider delivering the Boston College Class of 2014 Commencement Speech. Pretty please, with a cherry on top?
It was worth a shot.
Photo by David Shankman/Wikimedia Commons