The Students For Sexual Health (SSH) would like to clarify the mission and intentions of our organization at Boston College in response to a recent LTE. Mr. Ethan Mack is entitled to his belief in abstinence outside the bonds of matrimony, and SSH has no intention of convincing him otherwise. However, we strongly affirm the ability of any sexually active student to live a healthy, happy, and fulfilled life. We recognize that students are having sex despite University policy, and in some cases, they are putting themselves at risk. Our mission is to address these health risks and prepare our peers with the resources and knowledge to protect themselves.
While Mr. Mack contends the results of our research survey were ‘meaningless,’ we hope to shed light on this unfounded claim with a brief review of statistical sampling. When studying a population of some 9,300 undergraduate students, a random sample of about 370 Eagles is significantly representative of the student body. Our survey had 393 student participants. While increasing the sample size of a study will continue to improve the confidence interval and reduce the margin of error of the data, these improvements in accuracy become marginal after a target sample size is achieved. For example, 92.9 percent of students in the survey agreed that “Students should be able to distribute condoms to their peers on campus,” while the results of the referendum of the student body revealed that 94.1 percent voted yes that SSH should be allowed to organize and distribute condoms on campus.
To be fair, the limited institutional resources available to conduct this study—the first of its kind at a Catholic university in the United States—posed a source of bias in the collection of our sample. The survey offered $100 in gift card raffle incentives for participation and was available to any student with a BC email and membership in the class Facebook groups, so survey respondents were self-selected participants, and therefore more likely to represent a portion of students more inclined to answer the survey. Additionally, women responded in greater proportion than men reflecting the gendered notions of sexual health being perceived as only a women’s health issue. Nonetheless, we may still claim this sample is representative to an extent of BC students, and particularly revealing of our risky behaviors. This study confirmed the reality that BC students have sex, and more importantly, they frequently refrain from using protection.
Regardless of your beliefs and values, SSH wants to destigmatize discussion on this important topic, and resist any attempts to shame our peers for their decisions to have sex or practice abstinence. Many religious individuals on campus (including our members) value sexual health as necessary means in caring for the whole person, or cura personalis. Suggesting condom distribution unfunded by the University compromises the entire moral foundation of BC is reductive of Jesuit Catholic theology and demeans its commitment to social justice and service for others. We firmly believe we are furthering this mission in providing our care, service, and resources to improve the health of our student community.
Co-Chair, Students For Sexual Health
Featured Graphic by Nicole Chan / Graphics Editor