Last year, Boston College made national news for the decision to ban Boston College Students for Sexual Health (BCSSH) from distributing condoms in areas on campus, such as their dorm rooms, which they called Safe Sites. In the controversy that followed, university officials defended their decision, arguing that BC is a Jesuit institution, a fact all students knew when making the decision to come here, and that they have the right to enforce Catholic values on school property. They also referenced other Jesuit universities’ policies to validate their claims.
This past week, however, a fellow prestigious Jesuit university, Georgetown, made the decision to allow a student group, “H*yas for Choice,” to distribute condoms in free speech zones on campus, which includes dorm rooms. Additionally, students can order condoms to be delivered to parties on school property.
While Georgetown has not condoned the actions of the group and does not provide them with funding, which is why they have to put the asterisk in the group name, they are making it possible for the group to provide this service to students without risk of disciplinary action. Not everyone at Georgetown is pleased, with some suggesting that condom distribution could lead to higher instances of sexual assault. Others argue that having condoms available will propagate the hook up culture and contradicts the values of the school.
“People are generally pleased with the decision, but I wouldn't say it's something people are very consumed by,” says one anonymous Georgetown student. In fact, the press coverage has been fairly minimal, and the group H*yas for Choice has not sought out any additional media attention.
What does all this mean for BC? If fellow Jesuit institutions like Georgetown have decided to allow the distribution of birth control on campus, does BC lose some of its grounds to ban Students for Sexual Health from doing the same? As BC strives to maintain and increase its national ranking and prestige, it could be beneficial to receive any favorable press coverage such a change may bring.
The issue is especially timely due to the fact that the new pope, Pope Francis, seems to believe that it might be a better representation of the Catholic mission to devote more time to caring for the poor, sick and suffering instead of squabbling over birth control and whether or not gay couples can get married.
While it certainly is not a hardship to travel to off-campus stores like CVS to find condoms, this is not always a realistic scenario. Many students find BC’s Jesuit mission appealing, including the focus on community service and being men and women for others. Yet, there is a belief that BC can still embrace its Jesuit mission while acknowledging that students are having sex and trying to provide resources for them to do so safely.
The future of BC Students for Sexual Health and the possible restoration of Safe Sites is uncertain, but with other Jesuit institutions like Georgetown allowing the distribution of condoms on campus, it is possible that we will see BC follow suit in the coming years.Featured image via robertelyov/Flickr.