In 2018, The Fairfield Mirror published an article by Cara Lee ‘19 titled “Controversial Contraception: University Institutes Official Contraceptives Policy.” 

The article serves as an examination of Fairfield’s controversial decision to not provide contraception on campus. It outlines Fairfield’s official position that, “while we honor the freedom of our students to make decisions as free and responsible persons — and we recognize that persons of good will may choose otherwise — as a Catholic institution committed to the dignity of the human person we (Fairfield employees, students or club members acting in an official capacity, or organizations and events sponsored by the University) will not sell or offer any contraceptive devices or birth control.”  

The article continues that “student reactions to this policy are mixed”, with some supporting Fairfield’s policy and others disagreeing. This sort of controversy over whether the onus is on the student or the university to shift and alter their values is a discussion taking place at many universities across the nation. 

I would like to argue that, while students certainly should utilize their right to openly criticize their respective universities, it is ultimately the moral responsibility of the student to accept the university as an established institution which, while malleable, need not bend to the whims of the current student body. For instance, such a position would require a student to accept Fairfield University as a Catholic institution committed to its religious values, a fact that would make providing contraception to students on campus an unconscionable decision.

In the United States, the push and pull relationship between the student and university has continued since the founding of Harvard in 1636. Be it discussions over who exactly should be granted admittance, what the curriculum ought to be, and whether students should be given the right to protest their own university’s actions, both the university and the student have actively engaged in a power struggle about how the university should be shaped. 

The Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and the modern Black Lives Matter movement represent just a few notable periods in history when students have aggressively sought to enact change on their campuses. However, while universities should adapt to reflect a changing society, they should not be so quick to alter their fundamental tenets simply to satisfy a current trend or a particularly vocal group of activists. Change should instead be slow, methodical, and enacted with a fair amount of prejudice, a stance that seems to be increasingly unpopular in a highly technological and fast-paced modern society. 

Most collegiate students in the United States have at least some degree of choice when it comes to which institution they would like to attend. Some choose secular schools while others prefer religious universities. Some students prefer a large campus, while others opt for a smaller one. Sometimes the campus’s political and cultural attributes come into play, with some preferring a culturally liberal atmosphere and others a more conservative one. 

When one finally does choose to attend a university, he or she buys into that institution wholeheartedly – not merely in the present, but in the past as well. You are attending a university that has most likely existed since long before you were born; it has accordingly established a unique set of beliefs, values, and ideals that distinguish it from every other university. 

It is an entity unto itself, and the modern belief that it is the right of the student to enact their own visions on such an entity is both selfish and highly egocentric. To demand that a university with a deep, storied history mold itself into exactly what you want it to be is antithetical to what a student experience should constitute. 

We choose the university that we wish to attend and, once there, it is our duty to allow the university to inculcate its unique values and ideas within us, not to seek its transformation.

The modern student is one characterized by a sense of entitlement and moral selfishness.  We tend to believe that our own values are righteous and that those who would disagree with us act out of malice or ignorance. We have been told it is both our right and duty to effect change on our campuses when it should truly be the reverse.

Regardless of whether a particular university is religious, secular, conservative, or progressive, we should stop and think about what we can learn from that university’s code of values. We should be cognizant of the fact that not everyone shares our personal beliefs, and that to seek the transformation of a university during our short time there is deeply self-centered and overly self-righteous. 

If we understand that every university has developed its own unique set of values and beliefs, and that this moral diversity should be appreciated and protected, we will become far more effective students. 

To be an inquisitive and moral student means understanding that the university is bigger than we are. We should learn everything that it has to offer while extending our own criticisms judiciously. We should come in with a mind open to new ideas and new value systems. Finally, we should cherish the opportunity to learn at an institution imbued with a deep sense of history and culture, an institution which, if given the chance, could very well alter the way in which we view the world. 

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