On Tuesday night, the UGBC Student Assembly voted in favor of a student body referendum concerning Students For Sexual Health (SSH) and their ability to distribute contraceptives and host meetings on campus.
The resolution was passed with 18 votes in favor, four votes in opposition, and three abstains.
The resolution concerning a sexual health referendum calls for Boston College to “allow the Students For Sexual Health to distribute contraceptives to their peers and hold meetings on campus, without receiving official university recognition and funding.”
Additionally, the resolution expresses its support for a referendum of the general student body, which will give students an opportunity to vote on whether or not they agree with the above statement.
Once SSH has collected signatures from at least one-eighth of the student body supporting a referendum, the question will be added to the ballot on Feb. 15 for next year’s UGBC president and executive vice president.
The resolution was sponsored by President Pro-Tempore Connor Kratz, MCAS '18, and was co-sponsored by senators Patrick Madaya, MCAS '18, and Nicole Booth, MCAS '19.
According to supporters of the resolution, SSH will provide opportunities for students to talk and learn more about sexual health, particularly about critical issues such as STI protection.
Kratz, who is co-chair of SSH, presented the results of a study conducted by SSH about sexual activity and health at BC. 393 students out of the 9,309 undergraduate students responded to the survey, with a margin of error of 4.84%.
According to the survey results, 80% of current BC students are engaging in sexual activity, often without knowing much about preventive measures against STIs or how to access sexual health resources.
Kratz, who has researched the subject extensively, said this study, as far as he is aware, provided the first empirical evidence of prevalent sexual activity and risky behaviors at a private Catholic university in the United States.
While the administration has previously objected to SSH’s activities on campus in the past on the grounds that the organization’s mission is in contradiction the university’s Jesuit and Catholic values, Kratz suggested that the university and SSH might be able to find common ground in some of their concerns raised by the survey results.
“Cura personalis, which focuses on the well-being of the whole person, is often used among health advocates to help explain that our dimensions of health go much further than basic physical and mental health, and we need to consider all of these different dimensions of our well-being,” said Kratz. “Our relationships and sexual relationships are an integral part of that, especially as students are reaching a level of maturity where we are pursuing more intimacy in our relationships.”
Out of respect for the teachings of the Catholic Church, the resolution specifies that SSH would exist without the university's recognition or funding.
Georgetown University, another Jesuit institution, has already set a precedent that student organizations similar to BC’s Students for Sexual Health should be allowed to meet on campus, although they do not receive any funding or recognition from the university.
The resolution follows a UGBC resolution from April 2016 that stated that the student body is “in need of sexual health resources and education" and is committed to “a new endeavor of promoting sexual health resources, education, and dialogue."
During the SA debate, the major concern discussed was whether or not UGBC should take a stance on SSH's visibility on campus. This took place prior to students having the chance to express their opinion in the referendum.
Sam Szemerenyi, MCAS '20, proposed an amendment to the resolution that would call for the referendum without UGBC's explicit support. While his proposal was discussed and supported by approximately twelve members of the SA, the amendment did not have enough votes to pass.
Following UGBC’s resolution, SSH will be collecting signatures from one-eighth of the student body in order to ensure that the referendum question makes it to the ballot on Feb. 15.
“I really hope that a dialogue starts on campus,” said Kratz. “The goal is to raise awareness, and hopefully engage the students, and eventually the university. Our real hope is that the university will come to the bargaining table to work with students. I do believe that there are ways that we can be compatible and work to meet each other’s needs and address this issue.”