In 1989, columnist Maria Sevilla advocated for better sexual health education in a column in The Heights. In the 27 years since then, the issue of sexual health education in relation to Jesuit Catholic ideals has been consistently discussed on campus. Citing Jesuit values, the University does not distribute contraceptives on campus, nor does it allow student groups to distribute them. This policy has come under fire in recent years, especially in the spring of 2013, when the University’s policies became an issue of national concern. The New York Times reported on Boston College Students for Sexual Health (BCSSH), an unofficial student group that has been working to distribute contraceptives on campus since 2009. After this report was released, University administrators wrote a letter to participating students urging them to desist and threatening disciplinary action. Since then, BCSSH has not become a registered group, and progress for sexual health education has largely stagnated on campus.
On Sunday night, the Undergraduate Government of Boston College passed a proposal to encourage the Boston College administration to promote sexual positivity on campus, in part by allowing student groups to use their own funds to discuss sexuality and distribute contraception. The proposal was passed with 22 members voting in support of it and three abstentions. Funds given to student clubs are controlled by the Student Organization Funding Committee, a student-run body that is separate from UGBC. Funds disseminated by this group come from the student activities fee collected each year. The proposal asks the administration to ease restrictions on how that money—from the students—is spent. So, the proposal does not ask the administration to directly use University funding, but rather money directly from students.
In addition to easing control on student funds, the proposal asks the administration to release a public statement outlining the resources available to survivors of sexual assault and to create a place for addressing perpetrators. The Women’s Center and programs such as Bystander have already made efforts to address sexual assault, and in recent years the sexual assault policy has been thoroughly—and successfully—revised. But the University ought to issue a statement clearly outlining its resources. If UGBC, a representative body, believes that the University has not been clear with its sexual assault policies, BC needs to consider issuing information on its resources publicly, perhaps on a regular basis.
The original version of this proposal was amended during the debate in the Student Assembly. As advocates for the student body, UGBC is saying that students want to talk about this issue, and they are being precautionary in having rigorous discussion to amend the proposal to make it as effective as possible. This shift is something that UGBC, on behalf of the student body, says is necessary.
Unlike other UGBC proposals that could be said to only affect a portion of the student body, sexual health affects virtually everyone. This is a conversation students want to have. And UGBC’s proposal makes it possible for the administration to encourage a conversation on health without using its own money to compromise its Jesuit values.
UGBC’s proposal is not asking the administration to condone students who are sexually active, but rather saying that the University should recognize that a discussion on sexual health is necessary on college campuses. After years of struggling to bring these issues to light, the proposal is a positive step for the future of UGBC’s executive council.
Correction: This editorial originally stated that the first proposal had been rejected. The story has been changed to reflect the fact that it was amended, not rejected.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor