The Boston College Students for Sexual Health (BCSSH) have become more noticeable on campus lately. The group’s recent actions, such as distributing condoms, protesting the Pro-Life Club, and hosting “Sex Toy Bingo,” all force Boston College to assess its mission as a Catholic school. To aid in that project, The Observer set out to find what exactly BC thinks of this group and its existence on campus. Several administrators shared their personal thoughts about the group and in which direction Boston College should move.
Dr. Patrick Rombalski, Vice President of Student Affairs, said that “[BCSSH] are not a recognized student organization nor have they attempted to become one. At Boston College, they do not have the rights that recognized organizations hold such as reserving a room or sponsoring a program on campus.” He added that while their activity on campus is limited by their non-official status, “many of their members are Boston College students who are active in our community in a variety of capacities, such as a residence hall community member, leader in a recognized student organization, or tutor.” With regards to any concerns the administration may have regarding their presence, he said, “My office welcomes the dialogue that has occurred on campus over the past two years on the overall topic of health and the more specific topic of sexual health. In fact, the Division of Student Affairs has reorganized because of our recognition that heath education is an important educational responsibility of the University… We fully support a conversation on sexual health within a moral context. However, we cannot talk about sexuality, just as we cannot talk about any other aspect of what it is to be human, apart from our values. Boston College will not take an institutional position contrary to its own values and it cannot and will not make exceptions to this stance.”
Christopher Darcy, Associate Director of Student Formation Programs at Residential Life, had the following to say: “[BCSSH] is not a recognized group, but a lot of them want to get more involved and make sure students make the best choices… While we cannot support the distribution of condoms because of the uniqueness and tradition at BC, it is very Ignatian to embrace many peoples. There is always room to collaborate.” He added, “The problem is when a group veers away from this framework.” In hosting panels on sex and dating, his office has been at the forefront of the conversation he sees as necessary for success regarding sexual health. “Students want more than the hook-up culture. People need to understand what it means to go on a date.” He went on to say that while “it’s not ResLife’s job to make students say ‘no’ to hooking-up, we can propose alternatives.” He praised the “wonderful array of resources” for BC students, who he described as “intelligent and worldly.” “We have a lot of work to do,” he concluded, “but I wouldn’t be doing it anywhere else.”
Dr. Paul Chebator of the Office of the Dean for Student Development said that “BCSSH operates independently of BC,” but also that, “the issues they raise are important issues, the most important of which is dialogue.” Like ResLife, ODSD has helped sponsor talks and panel discussions. “The most important thing that has to happen is a conversation before decisions are made. This is lacking because of the hook-up culture.” He lamented that “the idea of human virtue is short-sided by a form of hedonism,” and that “students follow what they perceive to be the norm, especially with the influence of alcohol.” He argued that students who come to BC already know the mechanics of sex. “‘Plumbing’ isn’t the issue,” he said, “rather it’s the conversation between partners that needs to be discussed… It’s a difficult issue for 18-22 year-olds, and it’s a difficult issue for the Church.”
Dr. Thomas McGuinness, Director of University Counseling Services and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs overseeing both Health Services and the new Office of Health Promotion spoke to us on behalf of his office and Women’s Resources. He has been active in establishing a new position, Director of Health Promotion, who will address many health-related questions, chairing a Committee on Health and Wellness which addressed “very generally” issues such as alcohol, sex, body image, and stress, and meeting personally with BCSSH. “They are very concerned, and they have a very different perspective on what’s good for students. Their view [about condoms] is normative at most secular universities.” He said that “there are a lot of misconceptions about health services and STIs.” He clarified that testing is done by health services, but the question is who pays for the services. “If STI testing is to be free to students, somebody still has to pay for it. We want them to get tested, and we want them to be diagnosed and treated if they need it.”
He spoke more generally about the campus attitude towards sex: “People are afraid to be attacked from the left and the right if we address sex. We need to make it OK to talk about sexuality, because it’s more than just sex. It’s the concept of relationships, morals, and values… we need a lot of one-on-one conversations about relationships and sexuality, but it’s more complicated on the policy or macro level. We should debate these issues. It’s a university, and that’s what we do.”