Earlier this month, Boston College, a Jesuit university, ordered the end to so-called Safe Sites — the eighteen student-run outlets on and off campus that provide free contraceptives and information on sexual health. According to the Boston Globe, the letter stated that providing their peers with forms of birth control conflicted with the students’ “responsibility to protect the values and traditions of Boston College as a Jesuit, Catholic institution.” The university is threatening disciplinary action against the condom-lovers who are handing them out and the American Civil Liberties Union is promising a legal battle in return, but what’s most shocking is that in 2013, this is even a thing.
This isn’t the first time a Catholic university has met opposition to their sexual health policies: In 2010, a group of Georgetown students chained themselves to a statue during a prospective students’ tour to protest the school’s refusal to supply condoms on campus or cover birth control in their health-care plan. Last August, students petitioned the Notre Dame administration to drop their federal suit against the birth control mandate that would require the school to include free birth control in their health plan. But regardless of students’ pleas, these universities will not budge on their policies.
I am Catholic. I care about this recent news because I am a graduate of Boston College. I have had sex. I even had sex in my dorm room at Boston College. And each month I walked 1.1 miles (according to Google Maps) to the nearest CVS pharmacy to pick up my birth control. I fully admit that I am a Bad Catholic — the kind of Catholic who probably shouldn’t be allowed to call herself Catholic. Nevertheless, I, like so many of my Bad Catholic friends, chose to attend a great university that happens to be Catholic, not a great university because it is Catholic. I knew not to expect condom-filled buckets on doorways — which I had seen while touring Brown — but I did not expect the school to actively dissuade students from encouraging each other to make safe decisions. Plus, until BC and Georgetown* and Notre Dame want to start providing student daycare, aren’t a few free condoms the better option?
Today, other Catholic colleges have come out in support of BC’s stance: Officials at Providence College, Holy Cross, Notre Dame, Georgetown, the University of Dayton, and Stonehill University have all stated that their school’s policies ban students from distributing condoms on campus and that violating this rule would result in disciplinary action. I get it, the administration doesn’t like rubbers around. But I’d venture a large percentage of that hormone-riddled student population is having sex, and this organization costs the school nothing. Religious organizations turn a blind eye to plenty of things they don’t endorse: sexual abuse of children, say, or granting annulments to get around the no-divorce rule, even if the couple already had kids. Why can’t peer-to-peer sex ed be one of those things? Schools like Boston College shouldn’t deny the realities about sexuality, but if they insist on it, the least they can do is grant their student body the freedom to educate each other. Unless, that is, I am the only person at Boston College who ever had sex. Well, me and one other person.
* Update: Georgetown does, in fact, subsidize some forms of childcare for babies on campus who are older than 18 months.