According to the President of Boston College Students for Sexual Health, the students can currently get STI/STD tested through their health services but many students don't know about it. It’s expensive and since most students are still on their parents' health insurance they won't get tested for fear of their parents finding out. (Interesting, Ithaca college keeps these charges labeled as ‘health services’ and will not release itemized bills to parents without the student’s consent). Furthermore, there is a huge - frankly pervasive - stigma around getting tested. While there have been campaigns in the past to lessen the stigma and educate the student body, the only other option so far has been to encourage students to go to the local Planned Parenthood.
As an attempt to fulfill the unmet sexual health needs of the student body, Boston College Students for Sexual Health (an unofficial student group) have launched a campaign “I Stand with BC Students for Sexual Health.” Additionally, they started a petition for a sexual health resource center and are collecting letters of support to garner support they unrightly have not been getting. (You can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org).
Think Boston College is the only university to implement a “Condom Distribution Ban” policy in order to uphold the moral and religious value system of the Catholic Church? Guess Again. Here are 5 others:
1. College of the Holy Cross
2. Stonehill College
3. University of Notre Dame
4. Georgetown University
5. Catholic University
Having such a sexual health policy at the aforementioned schools goes beyond sustaining the religious integrity of the school, it can be argued as unconstitutional. After students sued Boston University in the 1980s, (the school attempted to force students to remove an anti-apartheid poster from their dorm windows) the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act of 1979 was instituted to prohibit interference with civil rights by private and public entities. In other words, as a student on campus, your free speech rights are protected whether your school is public or private. That being said, while it is widely accepted that there’s a prominent casual “hook-up” culture in college, should condom distribution be allowed to be banned on campus?
Let’s take a look at what some experts say:
On opposing the distribution of condoms of condoms on campus...
On supporting the distribution of condoms on campus...
Michael Galligan-Stierle, President of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities said to Boston Globe,“There are certain ways of living that we, Catholics, believe lead to a healthier and holier life,” This falls into one of many of those ways.”
Carol Rose, Executive director for the Americans Civil Liberties Union for Massachusetts, told New York Times “They don’t have a right to impose their religious beliefs on students or faculty, through threats and intimidation, when those students or faculty are engaged in lawful and constitutionally protected activity.”
Jack Dunn, Spokesperson for Boston College, told Catholic News Agency, “We’re a private religiously affiliated institution. We reserve the right to set our policies and uphold those policies through our student guide. We ask students to understand that we have a unique faith perspective, and when they enroll in our institutions, they should be respectful of our Catholic values," he added.
Marty Walz, President of the Planned said to Parenthood League of Massachusetts, said to the Boston Globe, “Instead of threatening, what if BC said, “ We don’t totally love your message, but we respect the fact that you are taking responsibility for yourselves?”
The controversy in the support or opposition of religious colleges banning condom distribution poses an important bigger question. Should there be a minimum requirement, if any, of sexual health resources and services provided on campus (private or public)? At Boston University (my alma mater), I remember there were baskets of Trojan condoms in the student health clinic waiting room and birth control was easily accessible. However, it was recently brought to my attention (despite having graduated in 2009) that my school did not offer on - campus STI/HIV testing.
1. Find out what sexual health services are provided. You may find your school offers everything you need. (condoms, birth control, STI/STD testing, peer/sexuality education groups etc.). If so, you’re in luck. If you don’t do the research, you could have been missing out on accessing services you need.
2. Start a “Students for Sexual Health” Group. Despite Boston College’s condom distribution ban, their Students for Sexual Health have made headlines for standing up for what they believe and taking action to achieve it - comprehensive sexual health services. After all, closed mouths don’t get fed.
3. Join MTV and Get Yourself Tested (GYT) Campaign. Sign up to become a student ambassador and get the GYT toolkit to bring STI/STD testing to your campus - Encouraging your peers to start becoming proactive about knowing their status can help lessen the number of STIs that are spread.
5. Locate Sexual Health Services Off - Campus. Check online at your school’s student health services. They may provide a “Clinic and Resources List.” No luck? Chances are there’s a Planned Parenthood or Free Clinic nearby. Find one.
Which sexual health services should a college be required to provide?