As debate continues on whether Boston College students should be disciplined for handing out condoms on campus, the students behind the contraceptive distribution have issued a statement describing the administration's correspondence as "fear mongering and threatening."
The student group -- Boston College Students for Sexual Health (BCSSH) -- have recently been told by school administrators to cease condom distribution on campus or face disciplinary action.
BCSSH Chair Lizzi Jekanowski said in the statement that the administration had not issued any prior warnings or disciplinary action against the group.
“We've had a very open and positive relationship with the administration. I would have expected them to initiate a meeting to talk about this issue before sending intimidating letters directly to the students," Jekanowski said in the statement.
Read BCSSH's full statement in the .pdf section to the right.
Administrators from the Jesuit, Catholic school sent letters to BSCCH students on March 15, and threatened disciplinary action against the students for breaking school policy and handing out the contraceptives on campus, The BC Heights student newspaper reported last week.
“As a Jesuit university, there are certain Catholic commitments that we are called to uphold,” Dunn told The Heights. “All we ask of our students is that they respect these commitments and the values upon which they are founded. If this group of students chooses not to comply with university policies, they will face disciplinary sanctions.”
In the letter, the administration specifically referenced the group's "Safe Sites," which are dorm rooms where students can find free condoms. The Safe Site locations are listed on the BCSSH website and the rooms are also marked with the Safe Sites logo.
In an interview on CNN last week, Jekanowski said the BCSSH hands out nearly 2,000 condoms every semester through its safe sites program and off-campus distributions on College Road. This resource is important, Jekanowski said, because the Catholic university's health services does not provide any form of contraception.
According to the CNN report, school officials felt the distribution was becoming "too public."
Video from the CNN interview is available in the media section above.
Aside from the dorm room Safe Sites, the BCSSH acknowledged in its statement that it has consistently handed out condoms on the sidewalks of College Road, between McElroy Commons and Roncalli Residence Hall. However, the group says this location is technically off-campus.
"This location, which is designated a public area by the city of Newton, is both off of the school’s campus and over half a mile from St. Ignatius Church. BCSSH has the legal right to distribute on this property, in accordance with the ordinance of the City of Newton, articles 20-13, 21-5 and 26-17," Jekanowski said in the statement.
Last week the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts announced its support for the student group, calling the Boston College administration "irresponsible" and "short-sighted."
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has also stepped up to stand behind the students, saying that it may take legal action against BC if it follows through with discipline, WBZ reported last week.
The BCSSH, which was formed in 2009, is not officially recognized by the university.
In addition to online petitions, BCSSH is also hoping to receive support from Gov. Deval Patrick, who is scheduled to speak at Boston College this week.
In a Facebook update posted Sunday night, the group asks supporters to call Gov. Deval Patrick's office and ask that Patrick refuse to speak at the university "until the administration rescinds its disciplinary threats."
Patrick is scheduled to present "The Policies and Politics of Inclusion," on Tues., April 2 in Boston College's Robsham Theatre.
What do you think? Should Boston College punish students for taking a pro-active stance against the school’s stated position on condoms? Or is this stifling free expression on campus? Tell us in the comments section below.