Ninety-four percent of students who voted in this year’s Undergraduate Government of Boston College election voted in favor of a referendum on the ballot asking if Students for Sexual Health (SSH) should be permitted to distribute contraceptives to their peers and hold meetings on campus, without receiving official University recognition or funding. The final counts were 2,825 votes in favor and 177 against, the Elections Committee announced Friday night.
The referendum was proposed by SSH, a sexual and reproductive health advocacy group run by Boston College students that is currently prohibited from operating on campus.
“I am absolutely elated and incredibly humbled to observe this astounding electoral victory and all that it means for improved student health and well-being on campus,” said Connor Kratz, SSH co-chair and MCAS ’18, in an email.
“Though we may not yet know in what form, we are confident that change is coming to Boston College on sexual health.”
The purpose of the referendum was to survey the student body on the issue. The results are in no way binding. The University can still decide not to change its policy of prohibiting SSH from meeting and distributing contraceptives on campus grounds.
The referendum follows a comprehensive public health survey conducted by SSH in December. 79.9 percent of respondents indicated that they have been sexually active while enrolled as a BC student, 42.4 percent indicated that they always use a condom during genital or anal sex, and 44.3 percent said they are not aware of locations proximate to campus where students can access contraception and sexual health resources.
The group says that it intends to keep the student body informed on the administrative results of its efforts, and it will continue its efforts to support BC students with sexual health resources and information regardless of the University’s response to the referendum results.
“The results of the Referendum are abundantly clear that students care about their sexual health, need greater resources to protect themselves, and fully endorse the proposal to allow the Students For Sexual Health to exist at Boston College without receiving funding or support from the university,” SSH’s official statement on the outcome of the referendum read.
“We look forward to presenting the results of our research and the referendum to administrators, and deliberating with them about tangible solutions to improve sexual health on campus without compromising the university’s Jesuit Catholic heritage.
“We hope the university remains open-minded and mindful of this important election outcome during our negotiations, and they express a willingness to achieve some form of consensus.”
On Thursday, a SSH member was forced to stop distributing condoms off campus on College Road by an officer of the BC Police Department, who Kratz said claimed that the group needed a permit to operate at the location since the sidewalk space is maintained by the University. According to Kratz, the City of Newton and the Newton Police Department both confirmed when contacted after the incident that the group does not in fact need a permit to distribute on College Road, as the location is public property.
Kratz said that this incident hindered the group’s ability to distribute condoms and campaign for its referendum, and it reinforced the need for the referendum itself.
According to Kratz, the officer was informed by BCPD that SSH does have a right to distribute on College Road and should not be disturbed when it does so in the future. Kratz, who said that members of SSH have been “harrassed” by BCPD on more than one occasion, intends to file a formal complaint with the City of Newton against BCPD in response to the incident.
Featured Image by Katie Genirs / Asst. Photo Editor