Two universities on the same street, both with “Boston” in their titles, but with two radically different policies towards student sexual health, and in particular the provision of condoms and contraceptives.
At Boston College, a Jesuit university on Commonwealth Avenue in Chestnut Hill, MA, students who have been distributing free condoms to their fellow students have recently been told to cease and desist, or face disciplinary action. http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/health/2013/03/27/boston-college-threatens-action-condom-giveaway/9o2UKvn9czUK6QFA3lzfTM/story.html
It is not clear what triggered this recent action since the group has been doing this for some time, but apparently times have changed. (Could it somehow have to do with the selection of a Jesuit pope in Rome?)
Former students in my Intro to Global Health course from BC have told me that they would never be able to have a discussion about condoms, or sexuality for that matter, in a public health course at BC.
The BC student health services do not mention the word “condom” as far as Google can determine. Here is their advice for students concerned about sexually transmitted infections:
“If left untreated, STIs can lead to reproductive problems, pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical and other kind of genital cancer. Abstinence is the best way to avoid an STI. Act responsibly to prevent the spread of STI’s.” http://www.bc.edu/content/bc/offices/uhs/education/std.html
Abstinence!! Wow. That must be really helpful advice to a student body which almost certainly contains at least a few sexually active young people. Many would argue that the most responsible way to act in terms of preventing an STI is to use a condom…. But BC’s message seems to be: “We’ll treat you if you get an STI (you naughty girl/boy!), but we won’t help you prevent an STI!” What century is this, people?
And at the other end of Comm Ave, is Boston University, a haven of free thought and highly intelligent students. Some students here also have sex, it seems. But the difference is huge: at BU, not only can students pick up as many free condoms as they’d like from the health services and many other points of distribution, a BU student can call on the services of the “Condom Fairy.” This “fairy” will deliver condoms (either male or female versions) to the mailbox of any student who requests them – anonymously – within a very short period of time. http://www.bu.edu/shs/wellness/wellness-programs/sexual/condom-fairy/ I would note that the limit of 3 male or 2 female condoms (odd math – how does that work out? I don’t even want to think about it!) per “Condom Fairy” delivery is a bit stingy, but hey, it’s better than being put in the BC pokey for distribution of condoms on campus! Viva BU!
(full disclosure: Although I am a professor of public health whose salary is paid by BU, these are NOT the official positions of Boston University. Just my own views. And I would hold these opinions even if I had nothing to with BU).
THIS JUST IN: A judge has ruled that “Plan B” the morning-after contraceptive must be made available to any woman of any age who asks for it. Stand by for exciting updates! this will generate a lot of controversy….