Boston College’s crackdown on campus condom distribution has renewed questions among Catholic schools regarding contraception policy.
Administrators at Boston College, a Jesuit institution, threatened last month to discipline the student group Boston College Students for Sexual Health, which organizes condom distribution to students. Traditionally, BCSSH had limited condom distribution to off-campus locations but recently expanded that service to dormitories. BC administrators sent letters to the group asking it to cease on-campus distribution.
The warning has reintroduced concerns about the rights of student groups on college campuses, drawing national attention from organizations such the American Civil Liberties Union and university groups around the country.
“As a private Jesuit university, our code of conduct requires students to respect our Catholic values,” Boston College Spokesman Jack Dunn wrote in an email.
According to The Boston Globe, more than half a dozen Catholic universities prohibit the distribution of contraception on campus, and said they would discipline student organizations that refused to comply with university requests not to hand out condoms.
Georgetown was among those colleges that acknowledged the right of Catholic institutions to prohibit condom distribution in university spaces in order to maintain their Catholic identity.
The university’s Student Health Center follows the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which prohibits Catholic institutions from supporting contraceptives.
A unique aspect of Georgetown’s birth control policy, however, is the university’s exception for free speech zones.
“Our policy would allow students who are acting in unofficial ways, meaning they are not speaking [or] acting on behalf of the university or a university funded organization, to distribute condoms in this free speech zone,” Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh wrote in an email.
This provision allows groups such as H*yas for Choice, which receives no money from the university, to distribute condoms in free speech zones including Red Square without fear of administrative backlash.
“We have never faced direct threats or anything that would make us feel uncomfortable from the university,” H*yas for Choice Co-Events Coordinator, Laura Narefsky (COL ’14), said. “They have turned a pleasant blind eye to us.”
Narefsky said that she supports BCSSH’s distribution of condoms on campus and accused the BC administration of violating student rights.
Some students, however, support Boston College’s defense of its Catholic identity.
“These students came to a Catholic university and are now asking it to change its policy. That’s not correct considering the resources available off-campus in the [local] area,” Right to Life Board Member Kelly Thomas (SFS ’15) said.