This past Friday, Dec. 2, a relatively new student group calling themselves the Boston College Students for Dental Health (BCSDH) distributed individually wrapped flossing packets to students on the sidewalk between Upper Campus and McElroy.
At the same time, BC Students for Sexual Health (BCSSH) were distributing condoms to students as they have done on several occasions during the last two years.
Michael Villafranca, founder of BCSDH and A&S ’14, said that he and other members of BCSDH were “encouraging students to throw away the condoms and take floss instead.” According to Villafranca, the group is composed primarily of members of the Sons of St. Patrick, the St. Thomas More Society, and the Pro-life Club, but other members are unaffiliated with these groups.
During the distribution, Marion Halftermeyer, a member of BCSSH and A&S ’13, approached Villafranca. At that time, Halftermeyer introduced herself and asked who Villafranca was and what he and the BCSDH were doing.
The message of BCSDH, according to Villafranca, was to tell students, “Make a better decision this weekend, take some floss instead and skip the condoms.”
According to Jessika Parry, president of BCSSH and A&S ’14, the members of BCSDH were “screaming very inappropriate and disrespectful things” during their floss distribution.
“We had just gone over to introduce ourselves and to say that we felt that the way they were expressing their point of view was inappropriate and they weren’t being very respectful to us,” Parry said.
On his response to Halftermeyer, Villafranca said, “I basically told her I didn’t have time for a conversation right then because I was handing out floss, but I’d like to have the conversation at a different time.”
After the brief discussion, both groups continued to distribute their respective items.
Nick Domino, BCSSH member and A&S ’12, commented that no real dialogue occurred on Friday. Rather, he said that the members of BCSDH acted inappropriately towards students of BCSSH.
During the distribution, students responded in a variety of ways. Some took both condoms and floss, some took a condom from BCSSH, which they then traded for floss provided by BCSDH, some took one and not the other, and other students ignored both groups entirely.
Villafranca said that he felt it was ironic that BCSSH wants the administration to provide condoms for its students, when the University does not provide other health devices, like floss.
Parry commented on the controversy that arose between Villafranca and Halftermeyer, as well as the overall goals of BCSSH as an organization.
“We’re really just trying to fill a void that the school has left us in,” Parry said. “We are fighting for sexual health because, compared to other universities, our university’s sexual health policy is clearly lacking.”
“On the other hand,” Parry said, “compared to other colleges, BC’s dental policy isn’t really lacking.”
Villafranca also commented on his organization’s goals.
“The reality of BCSDH is that it’s not a group of kids that are pro-dental health. We are just honest and dedicated Catholic kids trying to live the right way and trying to encourage other kids to live that way,” Villafranca said. “We’re not teens, we’re not children anymore, we’re grown men and women, and, at a certain point, we need to make decisions about what’s right and what’s wrong.” Villafranca also explained the origins of BCSDH, saying the organization originated in September when he and his fellow members were upset that BCSSH had distributed condoms on Parent’s Weekend.
He said that he hoped distributing floss would be a funny and ironic way of beginning conversations “not just between [BCSDH] and BCSSH, but between students who walk through both groups.”
As a member of UGBC Senate, Domino said he hopes that the events of last Friday foster more mature dialogue on issues of sexual health.
Parry also emphasized that BCSSH is open to the same dialogue.
“Everyone in our group is open to having the type of dialogue that [BCSDH] says they want to have. We just want to be sure that they will be doing it in a respectful way,” Parry said. “We don’t really have a problem with anyone disagreeing with us, because we understand that a lot of people do, but the thing that most of our members had a problem with was the way they were doing it and how disrespectful and inappropriate they were being.”