Imagine it’s seventh grade. You’ve just made it to your big teens and puberty has recently met you with its sweet embrace. You’re hormonal, awkward, smelly and impressionable. If you are recalling these memories perhaps a little too vividly, the next sentence may strike you with a strong wave of deja vu.
Let’s talk about sex. Sex is important. Sex is natural. Sex is great. But unfortunately, the vast majority of people are extremely sexually illiterate, and unfortunately, Gonzaga University is not making strides to aid in ending this epidemic anytime soon.
The Students for Reproductive Rights Club being denied formal club status by GU, due to its ties to Planned Parenthood, sent shock waves through campus.
To attain official university recognition, the group must drop plans to affiliate with Planned Parenthood’s Generation Action program, but doing so would undermine the club's mission and its general effectiveness.
The club was set to promote sexual literacy and reproductive health, as well as provide a safe space for all students across campus to engage in those discussions. Without the partnership with Generation Action, a Planned Parenthood student-led organization, the club lacks the ability to provide students access to various educational resources the agency provides.
Reproductive illiteracy in students is due — in large part — to rampant medically inaccurate and incomprehensive forms of sex education provided in secondary schools.
Because only 13 states in the nation even require medically accurate sex ed, young students are forced to rely on sexual health information from unreliable sources, including their peers, social media and pop culture. These outlets are regressive in providing information.
Some media sources even utilize blatant logical fallacies to limit sexual literacy, such as using scare tactics to say one can contract HIV by touching the skin of a person who is HIV positive or that condoms are ineffective in guarding against HPV (both of which are false.)
This mass misinformation doesn’t stop after after high school. However, the Students for Reproductive Rights Club could provide a solution.
With its plans to introduce professionals from organizations like Planned Parenthood, hospitals or even medical facilities to campus, the club could promote the importance of medically accurate information and continue (or start) the conversation many students at GU haven’t had about sex and reproductive health.
It is not too late to catch students up on sexual literacy, which is why it is imperative that the dean of Student Engagement reverse their decision, which denies students the space to have a new chance at sex education and access to the resources needed to practice safe reproductive health.
In addition to perpetuating sexual misinformation, in not formally recognizing the Students for Reproductive Rights Club, GU is preventing students from having the opportunity to learn more about, and practice, safe sex.
Knowing how to practice safe sex is imperative in college. According to research done by the Public Library of Science, when sex education is comprehensive, students are more informed, make safer sexual choices and have healthier reproductive outcomes.
This results in fewer unplanned pregnancies and more protection against sexually transmitted diseases and infection.
In partnering with Generation Action, a platform for comprehensive and safe sex education becomes available for any and all students. Safe sex in this capacity doesn’t always mean STD prevention and contraception. It can include topics such as consent as well.
All of this isn’t fathomable without collaboration with Planned Parenthood and its programs. The university must challenge its own views toward reproductive health, and change must take place now if it wants to destigmatize sex.
Given that GU is a Jesuit institution, the road to eventually fostering an environment that can claim to have destigmatized sexual conversations and reformed values will undoubtedly be difficult. But change is possible.
A portion of GU’s mission statement reads, “Through engagement with knowledge, wisdom and questions informed by classical and contemporary perspectives, Gonzaga cultivates in its students the capacities and dispositions for reflective and critical thought, lifelong learning, spiritual growth, ethical discernment, creativity and innovation."
To stay true to its promise of engagement with knowledge and cultivation of lifelong learning and innovation, the university should reevaluate its own standpoint on Planned Parenthood from, yes, a contemporary perspective.
Not only will this ignite positive change, but GU becoming the first Jesuit Catholic university to formally recognize a full commitment toward Cura Personalis, regardless of politics, can unveil what makes a Jesuit education so special.
It would make a dynamic statement: Nowhere else can a student better practice a commitment to social justice and openness to growth, no matter their faith background, than at Gonzaga University.