The Undergraduate Government of Boston College passed a resolution to encourage the administration to become more sex positive, in part by allowing student groups to use funds to distribute sexual education materials or contraceptives. The Student Assembly (SA) debated the issue in their Sunday night meeting.
The revised proposal that passed in the SA has has two parts: first, the University ought to more publicly disseminate materials regarding sexual assault, and second, student groups should be able to use their own funds to provide contraceptives or materials on sexual education. While their proposal provided no concrete changes for the future of UGBC, Collin Pratt, MCAS ’17, director of policy for GLC, and class of 2017 senator, said they hope to set a formal state for the institution that provides direction and stance for the future of the advocacy body.
The debate opened with a statement from Pratt explaining the mission of the resolution and introducing its operative text. In his formal written proposal, Pratt stressed that “a large community, if not a majority of the student body” is sexually active and therefore in need of sexual resources, ranging from educational resources, safe spaces for dialogue, and contraception.
Following Pratt’s initial presentation of their mission, the proposal’s co-sponsors delivered a statement on the proposal. Both co-sponsors, Meredith McCaffrey, MCAS ’17, and Connor Kratz, MCAS ’18, stressed that this motion did not conflict with the University’s Jesuit ideals.
“This is not a debate about whether students should or should not have premarital sex,” said Kratz. “It’s an acknowledgement that it is happening at BC, and that we need to care about those student’s safety.”
McCaffrey, the executive vice president-elect, echoed his sentiment, stating that a large part of the Jesuit identity is caring for the whole person.
“For a lot of people, that includes sexuality and being able to talk about sexual health,” McCaffrey said.
In the meeting, senator Hagop Toghramadijan, MCAS ’17, proposed an amendment to the original resolution. He suggested a new operative text, which argued that the University administration should shore up its efforts against sexual assault and release a public statement to outline the resources available to victims. In this text, Toghramadijan also said that no individual should be subjected to sexual activity that he or she is uncomfortable with, and that sex positivity is the right to be open about sexual choices as well as respectful of others’ choices.
“For too long UGBC has remained silent on the topic of sexual health and education and silently consented to the values of the institution.”
– Collin Pratt, MCAS ’17, director of policy for GLC, and class of 2017 senator
In explaining his motivation for proposing this amendment, Toghramadijan stressed that the administration should not be forced to adhere to a sexual health policy that did not follow the Jesuit institution of abstinence, even if it was the chosen and preferred stance of the majority of the student body.
“At its most basic policy implication, this means we would not call upon the administration to provide funds for contraception,” Toghramadijan said. “It’s not part of their vision of healthy sex.”
This amendment did not pass, losing in an 11-to-10 vote.
After the rejection of the proposed amendment, the conversation returned to the debate of the original proposal. John Daniell, director of rules in the student assembly, class of 2017 senator and MCAS ’17, led the rebuttal, promoting the University’s right to exclusively endorse abstinence.
“The current policies that are in place, as much as we disagree with them, are in place for the University and by extension the Catholic mission sees them as appropriate,” Daniell said in his first remarks. “You wouldn’t force a vegetarian to eat a hamburger, you wouldn’t make an atheist buy a Bible, and you wouldn’t make a Catholic university fund contraception.”
Daniell went on to say that there are resources available for sexual health education within the Women’s Center and Bystander Intervention programs. His final emphasized point was that in coming to a Jesuit, Catholic university, students in some measure buy into traditional Catholic ideals, whether they personally subscribe to the religion or not.
Daniell’s remarks were met with vigor—hands flew up as the floor opened to questions and commentary.
As the conversation continued, however, both those opposing and promoting the new proposal grew closer to a compromise. McCaffrey asked whether Daniell was in favor of more sexual education and more spaces for dialogue, pamphlets, and education. Daniell agreed to expanding those resources.
In the final leg of the debate, Pratt presented his own amended operative text, combining both sides of the debate’s contributions in one final argument. The final proposal stated that sex positivity is defined as the right to be open about one’s own sexual choices and the responsibility to respect other people’s sexual choices. This includes every individual and group being allowed to promote and stand by their own beliefs and choices about sexuality.
Pratt also included part of Toghramadijan’s proposal: the administration should strengthen its efforts against sexual assault and release a public statement outlining the resources available to survivors and the process in place for addressing perpetrators.
Notably, the final version of the proposal also encouraged the University to allow student groups to use their own funds to pay for materials on sexual education.
The final amendment, and in turn the proposal, passed unanimously among non-abstaining members of the Senate.
“For too long UGBC has remained silent on the topic of sexual health and education and silently consented to the values of the institution,” Pratt said.
Featured Image by Amelie Trieu / Heights Editor