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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Boston College in controversy over condom distribution

Published: April 12, 2013
Section: News

Members of a student sexual health group at Boston College have been told to stop handing out condoms.

The group, Boston College Students for Sexual Health, was formed in 2009 after the student body voted affirmatively on a referendum measure that called for better access to sexual health resources on campus. Despite the fact that 90 percent of the students who voted on the action were in favor of it, the school did not change their policies.

Since the groups’ establishment, they have faced resistance from the administration but were generally tolerated. This changed on March 15 when the dean of students and the director of residence life sent a letter to students involved in the group. Members of the group had previously met with the two administrators and seemed to have a good relationship, according to The Boston Globe.

The letter stated that “while we understand that you may not be intentionally violating university policy, we do need to advise you that, should we receive any reports that you are, in fact, distributing condoms on campus, the matter would be referred to the student conduct office for disciplinary action by the university.”

Tensions also arose after the group received permission from the city of Newton to distribute condoms on public sidewalks on specific days. At this time, the campus police were dispatched to stop the handout, and the Newton police were subsequently called in. The group has also set up “safe sites” in the dormitories where condoms could be attained, but the college complained about this. The group then moved their sites into the dorm rooms themselves.

Members of the group have stood by their actions and say that they will continue to hand out condoms, even if it results in expulsion. Local chapters of national organizations, such as the American Association of University Professors and Planned Parenthood have stood behind the students’ rights. Additionally, the American Civil Liberties Union has said that they will take legal action against the school if this continues, arguing that the administration is violating the students’ right to free speech and expression. More than 1,000 online signatures have been gathered from Boston College alumni supporting the students.

Other Catholic schools that have similar bans against condom distribution on campus include the University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, College of the Holy Cross and Stonehill College. Boston College officials have stated that as a private college, they have the right to regulate student behavior to keep in line with Catholic teachings.

While the school believes that the enforced measures will help and protect the students, members of the group believe that by providing condoms, they are helping their fellow students. The group also provides education about safe sex and sexually transmitted diseases.