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Georgetown's lack of condoms

Jenna Johnson

As groups of prospective students and their parents toured Georgetown University Saturday afternoon, three current students put tape over their mouths and chained themselves to a statue of the Catholic college's founder.

The president of the campus's unofficial pro-choice group yelled into a megaphone: "We are unofficial because Georgetown refuses to take care of the sexual health of its students." Two other students held a huge banner with a message for university president John J. DeGioia: "Take the tape off our mouths and the chains off our bodies."

If Georgetown students want to purchase condoms or birth control, they have to venture off campus -- usually to a CVS Pharmacy about half a mile away. The Catholic Church teaches that such forms of contraception prevent the creation of life and should not be used.
"As a Catholic and Jesuit university, our policies must reflect our identity and our values," Vice President for Student Affairs Todd A. Olson wrote in a letter to the group this week.

But Georgetown students are still having sex -- and wanting to do so without becoming pregnant or catching an STD, said H*yas for Choice vice president Erica Slates. The group distributes free condoms on campus twice a week, and last semester handed out more than 4,500.

"There's obviously a need," said Slates, 22, a senior culture and politics major. "This is a health issue."

The District is combating what experts have called a major HIV/AIDS epidemic. A recent report found that more than 3 percent of D.C. adults and teenagers are living with HIV or AIDS, although new AIDS cases and AIDS-related deaths have declined in the past four years.

H*yas for Choice members have been writing letters back and forth with administrators for the past two months on this issue and several others, including making the HPV vaccine more affordable for students and arranging more convenient transportation to the hospital for sexual assault victims. They are calling their campaign, "Plan A: Students for Reproductive Justice."

H*yas for Choice also wants to be an official student organization. The group has about 100 active members and 1,000 people on its e-mail list, Slates said. The university does not recognize the group because it advocates positions "inconsistent with Roman Catholic moral tradition," Olson wrote in the letter this week.

The Saturday afternoon protest near the university's iconic front gates attracted about three dozen students, who chanted things such as, "We want condoms" and "Georgetown. Change. It's not too late."

Several people in a large group following a backwards-walking student tour guide shifted their attention from the history of the university to the chanting students. One man snapped a photo with his cell phone. Someone else walking through campus yelled, "Just go to CVS!"

By Jenna Johnson  |  March 27, 2010; 4:49 PM ET
Categories:  News Overload  | Tags: Georgetown  
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Comments

Um - Georgetown is a Catholic university. This is hardly something that they hide. I'm not big on the Catholic Church discouraging birth control, but that's the party line. Did these kids think that Georgetown would have condoms in their medical center?

Go to CVS indeed.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | March 27, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't going to comment, but props on the ending. I chuckled.

On a slightly more serious note, I just wanted to comment on how low protest turn-out seems to be in this area. Three dozen people isn't much for the size of Georgetown. Neither was the 70 or so for the Cuccinelli protest at Mason. For as much as people seem displeased with the topics they say they do, they don't really seem to be making much of a ruckus about them.

The only 'real' ruckus for these sorts of things, in my eyes, seems to be on the internet. Anyone else get the sense that is where uproar is moving to? Any one else get the sense that college students are trading in their picket-signs for Facebook groups?

Posted by: krloker | March 27, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

So, they can afford Georgetown University but not a packet of condoms?

Posted by: edlharris | March 27, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Those aged 18-20 are also adults and not "kids" or "teens", meaning they shouldn't be called those words. Most of the Catholic church is composed of beliefs which are backward which is why I stopped calling myself Catholic in 2009. One of those backward beliefs is evident at Georgetown University because it refuses to recognize H*yas for Choice as an offical organization because the university says that techniques which prevent creation of life is wrong. It's good that H*yas for Choice chained themselves to a statue to protest that university's intolerance of condoms.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | March 27, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

What? Don't they know that on page 74,153 of the new StupakCare Health bill, all universities are mandated to provide condoms to students, and students are required to wear them constantly?
And by the way, when did Georgetown rejoin the Catholic Church?

Posted by: dennis10 | March 27, 2010 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Kids, they're incredibly cheap on eBay. Find a reputable seller, pick up a hundred for like $19, and don't worry about it for a bit. Seriously, it's not that difficult.

Posted by: random-adam | March 27, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

"Those aged 18-20 are also adults and not 'kids' or 'teens,' meaning they shouldn't be called those words."

Exactly. So why isn't it reasonable to expect them to go to the drugstore and buy their own birth control like the rest of us?

The university didn't forbid them to use condoms. It didn't outlaw condoms on campus. It just said that the university will not provide them.

As for official recognition for the group: they are allowed to meet. They are allowed to protest. They are even, apparently, allowed to purchase and distribute condoms. So why is university recognition so important? Do they want their picture in the yearbook? Or is it, as I suspect, that they want funding from student activity fees?

The university isn't trying to regulate their private sexual behavior. It isn't denying them their Constitutional rights to freedom of speech or assembly (which, contrary to what some people seem to think, do NOT include the right a FORUM for one's ideas or a free, comfy place to assemble).

It's a Catholic university. They all knew that when they chose to attend.

Posted by: highschoolteacher | March 27, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Georgetown students need only head down to any of the myriad GAY bars in DC, many of which provide condoms for free. From the Pope on down, the catholic cult has its head in the sand and is fostering ignorance, disease, poverty, and unwanted offspring. These cults will be relegated to the dustbin of history...just as they have been in Europe. They are too blind to see the writing on the wall.

Posted by: BelmontBayNeighbor | March 28, 2010 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Tch tch tch -- it's the Church's fault because college students can't keep their pants zipped? Great reasoning skills -- I weep for the future...

Posted by: Apostrophe | March 28, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Oh no, the spoiled rich kids at Georgetown have to walk 5 blocks to buy condoms so they can continue the frivolous, hedonistic, parent- and taxpayer-subsidized lifestyle that is the modern undergraduate experience.

Posted by: qaz1231 | March 28, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

They wanted to go to a Catholic university. Surely if one can attend Georgetown one has the intelligence to understand the consequences of that decision.

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | March 28, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Kudos to these students for asking Georgetown University to address the public health needs of their own student body. "go to CVS instead" or "they should have known" are not reasoned responses to a long-identified need for sexual health support on the Georgetown University campus. Opposed to abortion? Give young Catholics condoms. Marching for cancer cures? Give young Christians unfettered access to HPV vaccine.

Posted by: Zontag | March 28, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

They-- and the Washington Post-- are ignoring the much bigger issue of the fact that Georgetown's student insurance plan won't cover birth control for students, even if married, or the HPV vaccine. Victims of sexual assault routinely go farther away to George Washington's hospital rather than risk inadequate treatment at Georgetown's hospital. The condom problem is just the tip of the iceberg. Plenty of Catholic institutions prioritize public health over ideological issues; Georgetown just isn't one of them.

Posted by: teb26 | March 28, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm a Georgetown grad and I was always amazed at how archaic the place seemed. The professors were great, but in many ways, the "feel" of the school was like going back in time to 1955.

Still, G-town is a Catholic school and the administration has a right to do what they want. Nonetheless, if the Catholic church is wondering why they're losing members in droves, it's because of small things like this.

I left the church long before I ever got to Georgetown.

Posted by: sslatten3 | March 28, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

My wife and I went to Georgetown 40 years ago and we had no trouble (before we were married) getting birth control pills. Most of the doctors at the Medical Center would prescribe them. It's hard to believe you can't get condoms there today. Or, you can just walk to CVS.

Catholics just love to pretend that they're holier than everybody else. If they were just handing out condoms in the 'Welcome' packet, they honestly believe their superior Catholic souls would be in danger. Give them a break, they have all that to deal with.

Posted by: DaveHarris | March 28, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

"Those aged 18-20 are also adults and not 'kids' or 'teens,' meaning they shouldn't be called those words."

Exactly. So why isn't it reasonable to expect them to go to the drugstore and buy their own birth control like the rest of us?

The university didn't forbid them to use condoms. It didn't outlaw condoms on campus. It just said that the university will not provide them.

As for official recognition for the group: they are allowed to meet. They are allowed to protest. They are even, apparently, allowed to purchase and distribute condoms. So why is university recognition so important? Do they want their picture in the yearbook? Or is it, as I suspect, that they want funding from student activity fees?

The university isn't trying to regulate their private sexual behavior. It isn't denying them their Constitutional rights to freedom of speech or assembly (which, contrary to what some people seem to think, do NOT include the right a FORUM for one's ideas or a free, comfy place to assemble).

It's a Catholic university. They all knew that when they chose to attend.

Posted by: highschoolteacher

------------------

Georgetown students need only head down to any of the myriad GAY bars in DC, many of which provide condoms for free. From the Pope on down, the catholic cult has its head in the sand and is fostering ignorance, disease, poverty, and unwanted offspring. These cults will be relegated to the dustbin of history...just as they have been in Europe. They are too blind to see the writing on the wall.

Posted by: BelmontBayNeighbor
--------------------------
I agree with both of you! It is ridiculously rigid and backward for Georgetown not to provide condoms, but the students have to realize that is the Catholic position, and they chose to attend a private Catholic university. Not much sympathy here from me.

But it's a darned shame that drinking establishments care more about our citizens' public health than a world-class university.

Posted by: carlaclaws | March 28, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

...er "our citizens' health." Sorry about the redundancy.

Posted by: carlaclaws | March 28, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

You guys (protesters) are wrong. If you don't like the policies of Georgetown go look for another school. How will you guys like it if I come into your houses and tell you to walk naked to the mall? This is a private school for goodness sake.

Posted by: obohokechukwu | March 28, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

What's the big deal about going to the local drug store to get your condoms? Or are they that lazy?

Posted by: bendan2000 | March 28, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

If you don't like it- go to a different university.

Posted by: woodward4 | March 28, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Georgetown is a private, Catholic university. The school follows the teachings of the Catholic Church. Students knew this when they chose to attend. If condoms on campus are so important, perhaps they should have chosen a different school.

Posted by: sjagirl05 | March 28, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Of all the important issues in the world it's a shame to waste space to the terrible shame that GU students have to walk 1/2 mile to buy condoms! What a world!

Posted by: woodward4 | March 28, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

as I child, I was aware that the Jesuits did not like condoms.

Posted by: SofaKingCool2009 | March 28, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

I'll take the opposite position from many of my fellow commenters: College students, especially freshmen and sophomores, are not fully adults. The law and most institutions recognize them that way -- they can't drink, they often can't rent cars, etc. The common thread linking these restrictions is the recognition that people between 18 and 24 have typically not learned everything there is to know about adult responsibilities. So why should we expect different results when it comes to sex?

With that in mind, it's one thing to stand on principles and say that only people who agree 100 percent with Georgetown's beliefs should attend school there, and another to expect that on a Saturday night, walking over a mile to a drug store (yes, over a mile--the CVS on Wisconsin closes early) to buy condoms is something a randy young man or woman is going to undertake. Instead, they'll have unsafe sex, or worse--such situations frequently give way to sexual assault when one partner refuses. You can retreat to principles, but that won't change the school's staggering pregnancy, rape, and STD rates (contact the GU Women's Center for hard numbers).

As a non-Catholic Georgetown undergrad, I recognized and made peace with the fact that the school's guiding principles were different from my own. But I also recognized that the student body is over 50 percent Catholic, and for those students, still exploring their sexuality as well as their faith, it is unfair to demand that they conform with this one archaic belief or leave. The Church may not like it, but sexual freedom is a part of modern life. To force GU's young Catholics to make a decision between developing their faith and developing their sexuality is flagrantly immoral.

Posted by: lucas11 | March 28, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

It is true that Georgetown's students were aware of the school's Catholic charter when they enrolled; and that it isn't all that inconvenient not to have access to condoms on campus. But Georgetown lets its "Catholic values" get in the way of responsible policy, particularly with regard to student health. College students are famously promiscuous, and there is a strong drinking culture at Georgetown. The combination can have disastrous public health results, if information is not free. Not only does the school not provide easy access to contraception and birth control; by not supporting student groups working to remind students of the potential consequences of unprotected sex, Georgetown actually discourages the kind of information campaigns that normal schools promote. These kinds of campaigns reduce unwanted student pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases such as HPV and HIV. Kind of ironic, since Georgetown's medical school supported research leading to breakthrough HPV vaccines.

Posted by: greg52 | March 28, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

What a joke. These students should consider themselves blessed to have such a benign (though not enlightened!) school administration. Their barnyard morals should be given a dose of collegial discipline. They are free to leave anytime they wish.

Posted by: DoTheRightThing | March 28, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Seems like copulation is more important than education.

Posted by: MRGB | March 28, 2010 11:50 PM | Report abuse

The issue is hardly just about condoms. It is about a whole scale denial of reproductive healthcare for men and women.

As a recent graduate, I have to say that I was shocked to see that I could buy a pregnancy test on campus, but could not get condoms or even birth control pills. A friend of mine was sexually assaulted, and we had to take her to Sibley Hospital to get her the "morning after pill" at 2 am because she could not get it on campus. In fact, the university's treatment of sexual abuse in and of itself is appalling- those "convicted" of rape by the on campus judicial system frequently ended up back on campus after just a semester or two, usually forcing their victims to either transfer or deal with frequent encounters with their abuser. In fact, I was threatened verbally and physically by a man on my hall, and was told that there was nothing they could do unless I had "bruises around my neck."

There are numerous other failures: Friends had to pay full price for the HPV vaccine because health insurance would not cover it, and had to go through hell to get birth control and blood tests in order to be prescribed acutane for acne.

The reason this protest is important is because it is alerting future students of these arcane policies before they decide to attend. It is not "rich kids whining" for having to walk half a mile for condoms- it is bringing awareness to the University's systemic neglect for the health and welfare of its students.

Posted by: Ashley8 | March 29, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Sent a comment in Sunday night, March 28. Do not see it posted and believe all rules for posting were followed. Please advise.

Posted by: margoni | March 29, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

It's absolutely vital that these students have access to prophylactics if only to stop the spread of STDs from infected Catholic priests.

Posted by: GlenSColen | March 29, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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