On Friday, Oct. 29, 2021, FUSA Senator Jack McGlinchy stood in front of William Johnson, dean of students at Fairfield University, and declared that Fairfield University, despite its status as a Jesuit institution, should promote safe sex and make condoms accessible to students. “Proudly serving the class of 2024 as chair of the community safety and relations committee in the FUSA Senate,” McGlinchy has made it his mission to protect the student body and serve in their best interest.
Earlier that week, he sent out a two-question survey to the student body that garnered over 500 responses. The questions were phrased as such: “Would you support the distribution of condoms on campus?” and “Would you use condoms more regularly if they were available on campus?” According to McGlinchy, only 21 people responded “No” to the first question.
As a student at Fairfield University, I stand with McGlinchy and the rest of the over 500 students he surveyed: we need to bring condoms to Fairfield. Not only is this common sense, but it aligns with Fairfield’s Jesuit value of cura personalis, which entails care of the whole person. If Fairfield truly cares about its mission, then it is imperative that, as both an institution and community, they support McGlinchy’s pitch and finally take a step to end the Catholic guilt surrounding sex in a community that is, frankly, filled with it.
Though Fairfield continually tops the charts in academics, they failed the Trojan Brand Condoms Sexual Health Report Card back in 2011. Because there still are no condoms in campus stores or the health center, it is safe to say that, ten years later, Fairfield has not learned its lesson. Anecdotally, students have noted that more than five outbreaks of STDs occurred during their first year or so of college at Fairfield, which could easily have been prevented if condoms were readily available.
All Fairfield needs to do is look at the facts: condoms on college campuses are a good thing. 85 percent of U.S. colleges distribute free condoms on campus, and many of those do so in their health centers. This statistic clearly shows that most colleges are aware that their students are having sex and want to prevent outbreaks of STDs, as well as unwanted pregnancies.
It is also important that students understand how to have sex safely so that when they are having sex either at college or outside of it, they can avoid being complicit in unhealthy sexual practices or complicity perpetuating these practices. The implications of this are numerous, jarring, and downright horrifying.
By not having condoms on campus, it seems to me that Fairfield is overlooking using condoms as a necessary step during safe sex. This could lead to very problematic circumstances amid our student body, especially if some students interpret this as an indirect message, saying condoms are unnecessary for our health and safety.
While some feel strongly that Fairfield is simply preaching the same message of abstinence that the Catholic Church does, not allowing free condoms on campus allows room for students to skip this step, which has been proven time and time again. Studies show that “teens say guaranteeing confidentiality (78 percent), making them free (75 percent), and making them easy to obtain (70 percent), would be most likely to influence them and their peers to use condoms,” and when implemented this works.
It is also important to recognize that not everyone at this school aligns with the ideologies of Catholicism. If Fairfield “[welcomes] individuals of all beliefs and traditions,” it seems as though those beliefs should be accepted, honored, and allowed to be practiced safely.
Even though students can go off campus to purchase condoms on their own, this process can take quite a large chunk out of one’s day, especially if their only option is to take the Stag Bus. Many students can feel that it is more convenient to skip the process of going off campus to purchase condoms rather than protecting themselves and others.
As well as this, Fairfield University, whether they mean to or not, is perpetuating shame around sex for students. Though the Catholic Church has a traditionally complicated relationship with sex, the “anger, depression, rage, shame, guilt, fear and anxiety related to sex in the Catholic experience” is not worth it. College should be a time where students are free to express and explore themselves, and this includes their sexuality. This is directly related to the mental health of students.
If Fairfield implies to students that having sex is shameful, students do not simply ignore that indirect message when they have sex. This implication becomes a part of campus culture, just as it has become a part of the larger society (re: the “men are players, women are ‘promiscuous’” dynamic, but in more offensive terms), and the indirect messages one receives during this formative time influence their behaviors in the future.
As well as this, sex has actually been proven to improve mental health, and though it should not be the only tool used to increase one’s serotonin levels, having a healthy sex life is beneficial to a person. Fairfield should be endorsing this as an institution that is focused on the care of the whole student. By suppressing students’ sex lives more than their mental wellbeing, then they are essentially telling students, whether they are Catholic or not, that they should be feeling negative about sex.
In 2017, it was reported that about two-thirds of college students were sexually active, and though that number has likely decreased perhaps due to COVID, it could very well increase again. This means that the “tremendous suffering and damage” that results from the Catholic Church’s repression of sexuality could affect thousands of students on campus. This is an unhealthy and toxic way to look at oneself, and it promotes both sexual and social insecurity.
Fairfield University, as a Jesuit institution that claims to support cura personalis, or care for the whole person, is obligated to protect the physical and mental health of students. How are we supposed to feel positive about ourselves if we are made to feel that we should feel guilty for acting upon basic human desires?
Compared to other Catholic or Jesuit universities, Fairfield is still severely lacking. These universities still uphold the same values that Fairfield does, but do so while adapting to modern culture and a diverse student body. For example, Georgetown University and Boston University both have programs to allow students access to condoms for free. Georgetown University uses a “condom delivery system,” in which students can fill out a form and get condoms delivered to them. Though students run this organization, the administration has not attempted to shut it down.
Boston University students get visits from the “condom fairy,” which is advertised as a service on their official student health services website. As a University that competes for students who also apply to the aforementioned universities, it would be logical for Fairfield to align their services with the shift towards safe sexual practices that these schools participate in.
Unfortunately, this is not just McGlinchy’s fight – since as early as 2002, Fairfield students have been publicly advocating to get condoms onto campus. In 2017, the Fairfield College Democrats organized an event called “Let’s Talk Sex,” in which they planned to team up with Planned Parenthood to distribute free condoms to students. Two years before, students at the same event protested: “Expecting condoms? So were we.” Their efforts were fruitless, however, as Fairfield refused to allow Planned Parenthood to come on campus that year.
Although this is true, technically, “Planned Parenthood is welcome on campus as long as they…[respect] the wishes and values of the university.” This instance, however, proves the difficulty of getting Planned Parenthood onto campus, and they have not appeared since.
One of the members of Fairfield University’s Jesuit community, in a medieval tirade on Facebook, actually “called the sale of condoms in the student center ‘offensive morally,’ naming condoms ‘fornication aids.’” It is worth mentioning that this specific Jesuit does not reflect the values of the administration as a whole, but he is a symbol of the hostility towards sexual liberation.
The student organization Students for Life also rallied against the presence of Planned Parenthood, and the College Republicans also posted a statement about the issue. It seems that Fairfield does not wish for students to know about or have safe sex, nor does the University seem to value safe practices of bodily autonomy, and because of the nature of Planned Parenthood and its unfortunate politicization, its presence meets opposition and controversy.
This is still a pervasive opinion today, as seen through the opposition of the administration to provide contraceptives, but it is not the majority opinion of the student body. This should raise questions about who this policy is really serving – the students or the administration’s chaste facade?
It is important to note, though, that whether left or right-leaning, having condoms on campus is not a political issue. To put it simply and bluntly, Fairfield University is abandoning its core value for caring for each aspect of their students whether meaning to or not, and this includes their sex lives. Students deserve to have means of safe sex easily accessible, as well as to be surrounded by a culture that promotes it.