Fairfield University’s Student Health Center recently announced that it will offer free STI testing in April for National STI Awareness Month. Although this new initiative is extremely important for the safety of students, there’s underlying hypocrisy to this announcement.

“While the Health Center may prescribe birth control to some student patients ‘as part of a medically indicated treatment plan,’ students are otherwise unable to access contraceptives on campus,” a statement that comes directly from the student handbook states.

I find something very ironic about this statement. Why exactly is the Health Center promoting STI safety when the main preventer of these diseases is not offered on campus?

It appears that Fairfield’s policy on contraceptives lies in its Jesuit values, according to the student handbook. 

For a school that is actively trying to encourage diversity amongst the student body to assume that all students are Catholic and align with such values is hypocritical to the message that they’re expelling to prospective students. 

It’s important to ask why this is only being offered as a free service in April. STI’s are a medical condition that someone can get any time—not just in April. To only offer it as a free service for one month is unrealistic. The University sent out three emails noting that this service is being offered, but considering the sheer number of emails sent by other University services every day, chances are very likely that many people opt not to read these emails.

Fairfield has made all connections to religion on campus a choice. When students have to take a theology course, it does not have to be a Catholic course. Catholic Masses are not required and services are offered for students of other religions to attend. It’s confusing why Catholicism on campus has always been a choice, but when it comes to contraceptives, the Catholic view of abstinence is pushed upon everyone. 

Now, it’s important to ask what Fairfield considers contraception since some forms, such as birth control, also provide assistance for other health concerns. I believe that the bare minimum should be providing condoms through the health center to students. As someone who uses the pill for other health issues, I also believe that the health center should not rule out prescribing it. Although, I understand why that is a bit more difficult since birth control is a medication unlike condoms. 

This policy on contraceptives has been controversial since it was decided in 2018. According to a Mirror article covering the decision at the time, a small group of university representatives made the choice not to hand out contraceptives on campus. 

Former Dean of Students Karen Donoghue said at the time, “A similar statement [to the new policy] can be found at many of our sister Jesuit institutions within their student handbook. The statement drafted by students, faculty and staff articulated our lived practice. It represents our Jesuit, Catholic mission and appreciation for the human person. It also honors the freedom of our students to make their own decision.” 

To say that many Jesuit institutions have this policy is not entirely true. The oldest Jesuit institution, Georgetown, allows the Health Center to provide contraceptives. 

Though not entirely clear, our neighboring school Sacred Heart provides “certain contraceptive and family planning services, even though not provided to treat an illness or injury,” according to a 2012 Mother Jones article. Creighton University, another Jesuit Institution, allows students to fulfill any prescription of contraception through the University Health Center. 

The University of San Francisco, a Catholic Institution, says on their website, “As a Catholic university we provide the following information not to promote the use of contraception, but rather to help those who choose to be sexually active. In particular, we encourage all who are sexually active to behave responsibly in their decisions.” 

While they say they do not encourage contraception due to their religious affiliation, they are still acknowledging that they want students who do choose to be sexually active to be safe. This is the least the Fairfield could do.

Fairfield is not a dry campus, which is made clear from the moment one sets foot on campus for the first time. The idea behind not having a dry campus is the notion that students will drink with or without permission, so it’s better to have policies like Step Up Stags to promote safety. Could this not be applied to students being sexually active? 

“Students are going to have sex, and if they’re not going to be provided contraceptives, they’re still going to do it and it will be a less-safe action,” said Riley Barrett ‘18 in a CT Insider article. 

This statement would be one thing if Fairfield were a dry campus, but the administration has clearly taken on the ideology that students will do what they choose. This should apply to sexual health as well as, should it not?

I can’t understand why our identity as a religious institution lies in whether or not we hand out contraceptives. The safety of students should always be the number one priority for administration, and students and parents who are considering the university.

I can recognize that the Health Center may not agree with the lack of contraceptives offered off campus, which is why they decided to offer free STI testing. What the issue lies with is what the administration seems to prioritize, and I’ll give you a hint: it’s not student safety. 

By Liz Morin

English (Creative Writing) and Digital Journalism || Politics Minor

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