(RNS) An effort by Boston College administrators to shut down a student-run program to distribute condoms and provide information on safe sex could end up in court, according to Boston media outlets.
School officials sent a letter this month threatening disciplinary action to students behind “Safe Sites,” the network of dorm rooms serving as outlets for condoms, lubricants and other material.
The students were told the effort conflicts with the “responsibility to protect the values and traditions of Boston College as a Jesuit, Catholic institution.”
The letter was signed by Dean of Students Paul Chebator and George Arey, director of residence life.
“The students have repeatedly ignored warnings,” BC spokesman Jack Dunn told WBZ NewsRadio 1030 on Wednesday (March 27). “The dean sent the letter to the students saying their actions were incongruent with the Jesuit Catholic values of Boston College and asked them to cease in this activity.”
ACLU attorney Sarah Wunsch told WBZ the group may take legal action if the school presses the issue.
“Jack Dunn needs to think about the state’s civil rights act and its applicability to private parties,” Wunsch said. “They should not be threatening students with disciplinary action.”
Dunn, however, was unmoved.
“I don’t think the ACLU has standing in this matter,” he told the radio station. “As a private institution we reserve the right to set our policies and to hold our students accountable to those policies.”
Boston.com reports that Safe Sites are sponsored by the Boston College Students for Sexual Health, a group that works to improve sexual health education and resources. BCSSH is not recognized by the university.
Dunn told Boston.com that the students know the public distribution of condoms violates the university’s policies and values.
“As a Jesuit, Catholic university, there are certain Catholic commitments that Boston College is called to uphold. We ask our students to respect these commitments, particularly as they pertain to Catholic social teaching on the sanctity of life,” Dunn said in a statement.
“We recognize that, as a reflection of society at large, many students do not agree with the Church’s position on these issues. However, we ask those who do not agree to be respectful of our position, and circumspect in their private affairs,” the statement said.
Lizzie Jekanowski, chair of BCSSH, told Boston.com that the Safe Sites program fills a need that the university is not providing to its student body. Students who go to any of the 18 locations — all but one are in dorms — can pick up free male and female condoms, lubricant, and pamphlets about sexual health.
Jekanowski told Boston.com the administration has been aware of these sites for at least two years and never taken action. She said she was upset that BC officials did not reach out to BCSSH members before issuing the threatening letters.
“We’ve had a very open relationship and it’s been very positive,” she said. “This letter was very warmongering and threatening.”
(John Bacon writes for USA Today.)