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Petition Gathers Support

Petition gathers support

Petition asks for health referendum

By: Matthew DeLuca

Posted: 2/12/09

A group of students initiated an online petition last Sunday to add a referendum for sexual health to the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) ballot on Feb. 19 and 20. A press release from BC Students for Sexual Health said, "Between Sunday, Feb. 8 at midnight and Monday, Feb. 9 at 8 p.m., 1,000 students signed the petition." Scott Jelinek, an organizer of the petition and A&S '10, said that as of yesterday evening there were nearly 1,500 signatures on the online petition.

The petition, which requires undergraduates' Eagle ID numbers to verify their identities, cites the availability of affordable testing for sexually transmitted infections, availability of prescriptions for birth control medications on campus, and availability of condoms to all students. "We started meeting back in December, and it was roughly a small group of students who all noticed we had the same concerns. It all happened very organically," Jelinek said.

Rachel Lamorte, A&S '10, said that the group that formed around the issue of sexual health is in a particular place to affect change at BC. "I think a lot of students have the same concerns, but we all have a lot of experience," she said. Jelinek and Lamorte, along with Melissa Roberts, A&S '10, and Alexandra Saieh, A&S '09, said that they do not represent any particular campus group or organization, but rather the interests of a large segment of the BC population.

"We're not working within UGBC," Jelinek, who is a UGBC senator, said. "We're not working for any specific group." The students have been meeting with administrators, who Jelinek said have been largely receptive to their proposals. Jelinek also said that he had taken the class HIV/AIDS Ethics and that they had spoken with several nurses in University Health Services.

Jelinek said that the group spent some time determining just how they could get the referendum on the ballot. They spoke with the Elections Committee and Vice President for Student Affairs Patrick Rombalski before determining that it would require 1,000 undergraduate signatures to include their concerns on the elections ballot.

"There have been some past attempts to address these issues on campus," Saieh said. "I think they have been addressed, but we're going about it in a different way than any other group."

Jelinek said that BC Students for Sexual Health has done research into how other schools, specifically Loyola University in Chicago, Georgetown University, and the University of San Francisco, have handled these issues on their campus. The site hosting the petition also features screen shots of the sections on BC's and Georgetown's Web sites that address sexual issues. Georgetown's is significantly longer and more informative.

Jelinek said that there is a stark comparison between the two. "They say condom use is valid … that it prevents spread of infection." 

This deficiency is due in part, Lamorte said, to a lack of communication between administrators and students. "BC has suffered from a big disconnect between students and administrators. Administrators are much more receptive to students working to address campus issues," she said. 

Roberts said the availability of birth control medication for women is also an issue. She said that the current system encourages duplicity, and that women are forced to hide their intentions when they go to health services. "Any system that encourages you to lie about your symptoms is not working," she said.

Lamorte cited other reasons for taking "the pill," which include acne prevention and regulation of menstrual cycles. "There are perfectly valid reasons [unrelated to birth control] women can use the pill," Lamorte said.

Jelinek said that they are not asking for the University to deny any of its Catholic principles. "We are very aware of the Jesuit-Catholic nature of BC," Jelinek said. "We're not looking for the University to buy condoms." Some alumni have dedicated that they would not support such actions and that they would withdraw their donations if the University ever considered providing condoms directly to students. Jelinek said that, instead, they want "some mechanism to have them on campus and distribute them to students." He said that in Georgetown dorms, there are designated people who can distribute condoms to students who request them.

Jelinek said that Rombalski is "open to dialogue," and "very interested in addressing the way in which the University addresses the health concerns of its students." 

"We've created a strategy that is very workable for the administration and students," Lamorte said. The group said they are pleased to have gotten such a positive response from students and that they have received only a small amount of negative criticism. 

Christopher Denice, UGBC president and CSOM '09, said "I'm think there are a lot of students calling for this, but it came as news to me that they were putting it on the ballot." He said that he was not aware of past efforts to address these specific issues with the administration. "This was never really discussed or put into play at all with the administration," he said.
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