Catholic Stonehill College thwarts one student’s condom crusade
Stonehill College senior Katie Freitas was worried that her fellow students were having unprotected sex, so she placed boxes of free condoms in common areas of some residence halls.
But the college removed them, Freitas said, because as a Catholic institution it does not allow distribution of contraceptives on its campus.
“The lack of easy access to condoms is definitely a problem,” said Freitas, 22, who is from Danbury, Conn. “I feel certain issues at Stonehill are not addressed as well as they could be.
“We have had incidents of sexually transmitted diseases on campus. Alcohol is certainly an issue in most sexual encounters, and in an alcoholic state, you wouldn’t be thinking, ‘I’ll run down to CVS for a condom,’“ Freitas said.
Stonehill spokesman Martin McGovern said that while the college admires Freitas’ concern for her fellow students, it’s not about to change its policy.
It has a wellness coordinator and a student group, Active Concerned Educated Students (ACES), to engage in health initiatives and outreach, he said.
“We make no secret of our religious affiliation,” said McGovern. “Stonehill is a Catholic college. In line with church teaching, the college does not promote contraception or permit the distribution of birth control on campus.
“We do not expect everyone to agree with this policy,” said McGovern. “We do ask students, and other members of our community, to respect it.”
The controversy is not unique to Stonehill.
At most public colleges, and at private colleges without religious affiliations, free condoms have become as ubiquitous as laptops, iPods and dirty laundry. They hang in bags on resident assistants’ doors in dormitories and fill bins in health service departments.
Students at Catholic colleges often demand them, too. Last week, during student government elections at Boston College, students overwhelmingly approved a “sexual health referendum” asking for access to free birth control and condoms.
The church prohibits the use of contraception because of its belief that every act of sexual intercourse should be open to procreation. It also discourages sex between unmarried partners.
Freitas said she understands that Stonehill is a Catholic college, but said the school also “prides itself on diversity.”
In December, she wrote a proposed constitution for a new campus group, the Sexual Health and Awareness Group, which she said had more than 20 members.
Its stated goals were to educate students about how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancy, to spread information on sexual health issues and to deal with “the emotional and psychological issues related to sex.”
But when she met with the director of student services, Freitas said, she was advised that her group was not likely to be approved and was urged to work with ACES instead.
ACES “didn’t have (the same) type of focus at all,” Freitas said.
So, using condoms donated by a family planning agency, Freitas filled small boxes and placed them in common areas of campus residence halls. The boxes were taken away, but Freitas said she has not had any communication from the college about them.
“I would love it if, at the very least, condoms could be available in the health center,” said Freitas. “I would love to have them in the dorms.”
In any case, Freitas said, she will continue to hang a bag of condoms on her own dormitory door. It’s been there “almost since the beginning” of the year, she said, and no one has removed it.
Vicki-Ann Downing can be reached at email@example.com