It is hardly a surprise that the recent release of the 10th Annual Trojan Sexual Health Report Card, a set of rankings evaluating universities on accessibility of sexual health resources and information available to students on campus, placed Georgetown 112th of 140 schools. The fact that the university dropped 19 spots from an already dismal 2014 ranking is unacceptable.
Instead of fearing backlash from conservative alumni and other conservative watchdogs who seek to protect Georgetown’s Catholic identity, the university should prioritize student well-being. While Catholic social and moral teachings are an integral part of Georgetown pedagogy, they cannot be used as grounds to deny access to basic sexual education.
The Trojan Sexual Health Report Card measures schools based on categories including quality and accessibility of the student health website, contraceptive availability, sexually transmitted infections testing, lecture and outreach programs and peer groups and sexual assault resources and services.
Georgetown University Health Education Services provides STI and HIV testing at the Student Health Center, and the university has made an effort to improve sexual assault resources in a recent memorandum of understanding with the Georgetown University Student Association.
In terms of student-led sexual health education, H*yas for Choice, the I Am Ready program, Take Back the Night and Sexual Assault Peer Educators have done an excellent job engaging the student body in important discussions about sexual health and sexual assault prevention. Students have also praised the work done by Associate Director of Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Services Jen Schweer. However, it is telling that the majority of Georgetown’s sexual health deficit has been filled by passionate students and activists rather than by the institution itself.
Georgetown’s campus has a well-known dearth of sexual health resources, like condoms, and references, like informational packets, filled solely by H*yas for Choice. The administration has the option to improve Georgetown’s sexual health ranking by lifting its ban on condom sales at independent storefronts located on university property, such as Wisemiller’s Grocery and Deli and Students of Georgetown, Inc. locations. There also needs to be meaningful reform at the Student Health Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, where doctors are not obliged to disclose all possible health options to their patients, who are not all Catholic, and are not permitted to prescribe birth control for contraceptive purposes without a patient request.
While students must understand that Georgetown is tied to its Catholic foundations, it is absolutely possible for Georgetown to go further than it has in support of sexual health without compromising its Catholic identity. The university’s Catholic label is not a shield from criticism, and students are right to demand that the university fulfill its commitment to care for the whole person.
Despite Vatican and administrative disapproval, it is an undeniable reality that students on campus have sex. If we are to take the tenet of cura personalis seriously, the university cannot ignore this fact and must realize it has an obligation to take care of students’ sexual health.