Photo by Madison Polkowitz / Graphic by Meg Loughman / Gavel Media

Abolish 6.8: The Cohabitation Clause is Heteronormative and Illogical

As a Jesuit university, Boston College loves to espouse its commitment to developing “men and women for others.” It's repeated at every info session, tour, and panel. A Jesuit education means reflecting on who we are, how we can make the world a more just place, and how we can further develop our God-given talents.

When a parent inevitably asks about the experience of non-Catholic or non-religious students at BC, they get some version of a canned response.

“You don’t have to be Catholic to go to BC. The university doesn't impose any Catholic precepts onto its students. We are accepting of all faiths.”

That's what BC wants prospective students to think about Jesuit education. But what they won’t tell you is that being a Jesuit university actually does impose Catholic values onto its students.

One value in particular stands out for its idiocy and backwardness. According to the Code of Student Conduct, it is illegal to have premarital sex on campus.

Section 6.8 of the Code of Student Conduct states,“All students have a responsibility to respect the values and traditions of Boston College as a Jesuit, Catholic institution, including adhering to the Church's teachings with respect to sexual activity. Consequently, incidents of sexual intercourse outside the bonds of matrimony may be referred to the Student Conduct System.”

Yes, you read that right. Boston College has an official ban on any premarital sex. Breaking it is a punishable offense.

Practically everyone I've asked about this policy didn't know it existed, and for good reason. Many programs at BC, like freshman orientation, have open and positive discussions around consent and hookup culture on campus. These programs never condemn premarital sex. They reinforce student’s rights to choose whether or not to partake in the hookup culture, as long as you have consent.

No one I spoke to at Residential Life had ever written a student up for premarital sex. In fact, some admitted that they had even broken this rule themselves. BC’s supposed first enforcers of the Code of Student Conduct don’t even follow it themselves.

So then, I ask: why is such an outdated policy still part of the official Code of Student Conduct if it’s rarely enforced? The argument presented in the Code of Conduct is flimsy at best.

If being a Jesuit university means that we have a responsibility to “adhere to the Church’s teachings,” why aren't we required to go to mass every Sunday? Why is our adherence to the Church’s teachings limited to sexual intercourse?

Boston College has no right to dictate its students’ sex lives, especially under the guise of Church teachings they cherry-pick to justify their policies. If BC is open to all faiths, why should the university force the views of one religion upon its students?

The Conditions for Residency states that “guests of the opposite sex are not permitted to remain overnight.” The policy also says that “sexual activity between or among members of the same or opposite sex is prohibited in the residence halls.”

There are a lot of issues with this policy, the biggest being its blatant reinforcement of heteronormativity on campus. By singling out guests of the opposite sex, Boston College is essentially assuming two things:

1. The only reason someone of the opposite sex would stay overnight is to hook up.

2. The only people the administration recognizes as having sex on campus are heterosexual couples.

Although sexual activity between members of the same sex is banned, only members of the opposite sex are actually banned from staying overnight. Both of these assumptions minimize queer students’ experiences on campus.

The first assumption is clearly flawed. Not all students of the opposite gender are staying overnight to have sex. What if a student consumes too much alcohol and gets taken care of in whatever room they find themselves in? What about friends from home coming to visit? Siblings?

This policy is particularly problematic for queer students. BC boxes everyone into two neat genders for housing. But this misgenders and denies the existence of students who identify as non-binary or transgender. Who's to say where they can and cannot sleep overnight?

If BC recognized the presence of queer students on campus and treated all students equally, then it would also have to ban members of the same sex from staying overnight. Obviously this would be ridiculous, leaving only one feasible solution: to remove the ban and revise the policy.

Students should be allowed to sleep overnight in any dorm on campus, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

It's important to understand the ramifications of being required to “adhere to the Church’s teachings with regards to sexual activity.” These teachings discriminate against queer students, as the Catholic church believes that any same-sex activity (including relationships) is sinful. If BC claims to be open to all students, then why does it require its students to adhere to inherently anti-LGBTQ+ teachings?

Boston College must affirm the experiences of all of its students. The only way for BC to successfully do that in regards to its heteronormative policies is to remove section 6.8 from the Code Student of Conduct.

The policy is rarely enforced and unknown to the majority of the student body. So why does it still exist? To please wealthy Catholic donors? To maintain BC’s prestige as a Catholic university?

A Jesuit education should be open to all regardless of religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Other Jesuit universities, like Georgetown, recognize this. They lack policies that explicitly prohibit premarital sex or having members of the opposite sex sleepover as guests.

I challenge Boston College to come up with one justifiable reason as to why section 6.8 should remain in the Student Code of Conduct, especially considering its infrequent enforcement. BC, you have two choices: either remove the policy, or prove your commitment to the Church and enforce it. Which one will it be?

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