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(Emily Tiberio/The Observer)

Staff Writer
Published: February 11, 2015

On Nov. 3, 2014, over 1,000 Fordham University students, lead by the group S.A.G.E.S, (Students for Sex and Gender Equality and Safety) presented a petition to Fordham President Rev. Joseph McShane, S.J., demanding reform on Fordham’s strict sexual health and gender policies. The official policy, located on Fordham’s website, is that “[a]s an institution in the Catholic, Jesuit tradition, Fordham University follows Church teachings on reproductive issues. Distribution of contraceptives, contraceptive devices and/or birth control, in any form, is prohibited on Fordham University property and at University-sponsored events.” I was not surprised to hear that these outdated policies were being called into action. Luckily for the many individuals involved with S.A.G.E.S, a similar organization, H*yas for Choice at Georgetown University has proven that student organizations opposing Jesuit ideals can exist peacefully at Jesuit institutions.

On Jan. 24, over 500 Georgetown University students lead by student organization H*yas for Choice, protested on campus for eight hours aiming to spark pro-choice dialogue and highlight the differentiating views on national debates amongst university students. Students stood together holding signs that read “Keep abortion legal,” “Thou shalt not mess with women’s reproductive rights” and other provocative sayings. Additionally, H*yas for Choice put up 700 stickers titled “know your options” in Georgetown University bathrooms, in effort to bring attention to the organization’s informational website and blog. On these sites, students can find abortion resources in Washington, D.C., resources for sexual assault victims, STD testing locations nearby and a list of birth control options for women. 

While similar protests had been halted in the past by Georgetown University Police Department, this protest was uninterrupted. For groups like S.A.G.E.S, H*yas for Choice is a leading example of how a university can coexist with progressive student organizations, even if the group is against the school’s traditional policies. Because H*yas for Choice is unaffiliated with the school and does not receive funding from the University, students in the organization have been able to educate the student body on sexual wellness and encourage safe sex without interference from university officials.

H*yas for Choice has led various protests across school campus encouraging free speech and has also recently implemented a condom delivery system. Georgetown students can request free condoms by filling out an online form, and once the form is filled out, condoms can either be delivered or picked up. Not to mention, as of November 2014, H*yas for Choice, and other unrecognized groups at Georgetown University has been able to access benefits of recognized clubs which were previously restricted. These benefits include storage space, reserving classrooms and utilizing printing services. 

Students at Boston College (BC) involved in the student organization Boston College Students for Sexual Health also tried to distribute condoms at designated “safe-sites” around the University, but these students were threatened by BC administration. While Fordham students in S.A.G.E.S have not yet faced disciplinary action, students in the group have distributed condoms in a similarly stealthy manner in order to avoid trouble. 

Although Georgetown University follows Jesuit traditions and does not believe in the distribution of contraceptives on campus, the University also respects that students within the University may not agree with the school’s religious policies, something that Fordham and Boston College should take into consideration. As Rachel Pugh, director of media relations at Georgetown stated, “We respect the rights of our students to join outside groups as individuals and believe this activity falls within that context.” 

It seems ironic that Fordham upholds the Catholic standard of cura personalis, care for the whole person, yet Fordham’s health centers compromise students’ sexual health by not providing any form of contraceptives. Considering the rate of unprotected sex increases while in college, according to a 2014 New York University study, and that 1 in 4 college students has an STD, according to Stanford University’s Sexual Health Peer Resource Center, it seems that Fordham needs to question if their overall student health comes second to the school’s religious values. As Georgetown University has finally accepted the contrasting beliefs amongst their student body and has allowed H*yas for Choice to continue without interference, I am hopeful that Fordham will follow suit.

Correction: An earlier iteration of this article stated that Fordham University Health Centers does not provide STD Testing. This statement is not true.

(Ian Mckenna/ The Observer)
(Ian Mckenna/ The Observer)
(Ian McKenna/ The Observer)

Contributing Writer
Published: November 5, 2014

The Students for Sex and Gender Equality and Safety Coalition (S.A.G.E.S.) has faced opposition from students who either misunderstand their aims or just do not care about women’s health and reproductive rights. To clarify the group’s specific goals, S.A.G.E.S. advocates for free distribution of condoms and access to birth control on campus, gynecological services in the health center, resources for pregnant women, free speech zones, trans-inclusive housing and removal of the infantilizing and heteronormative housing and guest policies. 

Some claim that it is unrealistic to ask a Catholic university to change its view on birth control. But all progressive change has come through struggle. The history of this country is littered with institutions founded on bigoted principles of mistreating one group to raise up another. It is still visible today in the broken prison system with its mass incarceration of people of color, as well as undeniably racialized police brutality. The Roman Catholic Church itself used to claim that racial segregation was “demanded by God” but eventually radical churchgoers committed themselves to changing those ideas. The Catholic Church, just like other institutions, only changes when people demand it.

No amount of morality or outdated tradition should be able to infringe upon human rights. Though it may be the opinion of some that use of birth control is immoral, it is simply untrue that sex is only for heterosexuals attempting to reproduce. Though it is enough of a reason in itself, it is also untrue that birth control methods are used only to stop unwanted pregnancies. People use birth control to protect their bodies from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and to regulate feminine health issues. Women are told that if they want access to contraceptives and gynecological services, they can seek those things themselves, but the reality is that many people do not have access to these resources. Medical services and birth control can be very expensive, and it is not the duty of the administration to dictate to women what basic measures they can or cannot take to protect their own bodies.

Can the student body, paying millions of dollars for an education in a modern institution, really be forced to conform to the patronizing and arbitrary standards of morality upheld by an out-of-touch administration?

Fordham’s claim to Jesuit values goes beyond the compulsory study of theology and is radically different from attempting to instill compassion and honesty into its students when those values are used as excuses to subjugate women. Whatever “moral opposition” the administration may claim against birth control is self-contradictory because the healthcare plan provided for Fordham faculty does include contraceptive coverage. The government funding of $1.4 million given to Fordham for calling itself a secular school invalidates the privatization of its healthcare policies. Students are allowed to have sex but are paralyzed because they are denied ready access to contraceptives, shamed by so-called Catholic values for wanting or needing abortions and essentially refused accommodations if they have children.

The administration’s failure to coherently respond to S.A.G.E.S. is indicative of their unwillingness to consider their students’ wants and needs, as well as their inability to take the tuition-paying adult women and men seriously. The administration either ignores and silences student voices or passive-aggressively fights against them through subtweeting and fear tactics. The group has received some peculiar backlash—back in September, the Dean of Students at Rose Hill tweeted, “@fordhamSAGES Secret protests are fun, but at college, we debate ideas rather than litter about them. Info for you: http://www.fordham.edu/CARE.” The school has threatened students aligned with this cause to be fired from their Resident Assistant jobs, which disempowers them to engage in social conversations or express their dissatisfaction. The lack of transparency about how students can be punished for protesting is an equally discouraging implicit threat. Fordham knows what its students want and require but so far has not shown that it cares enough about its students to acknowledge or take actions toward fixing its misogynistic policies.

Core members of the S.A.G.E.S. coalition meet to discuss what going public means and what the next steps are. From left to right, Alexandra Leen, FCRH '14, Rachel Field, Wilmarie Cintron-Muniz and Beth Chang, all FCRH '15. (Ian McKenna/The Observer)
Core members of the S.A.G.E.S. coalition meet to discuss what going public means and what the next steps are. From left to right, Alexandra Leen, FCRH '14, Rachel Field, Wilmarie Cintron-Muniz and Beth Chang, all FCRH '15. (Ian McKenna/The Observer)
Core members of the S.A.G.E.S. coalition meet to discuss what going public means and what the next steps are. From left to right, Alexandra Leen, FCRH ’16, Rachel Field, Wilmarie Cintron-Muniz and Beth Chang, all FCRH ’15. (Ian McKenna/The Observer)

Features Editor
Published: November 3, 2014

The automatic sliding doors of Hughes Hall open up and Wilmarie Cintron-Muniz, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’15, walks along the lobby until we see each other. I am sitting next to some Gabelli students working together on a project. The refuse of the day’s edition of the Financial Times sits between us, and we both pick at it between discussions about midterms and what we are doing for the coming Halloweekend. As we wait for the other members of the conversation to arrive, she tells me her family is visiting for Family Weekend and she is planning a scavenger hunt for her little brother.

With modern furniture and young business professionals milling around the lounge in suits and ties, the setting doesn’t seem in harmony with the conversation we are about to have.

Cintron-Muniz is one of the core members of the Students for Sex and Gender Equality and Safety (S.A.G.E.S.) Coalition, a group on campus that has so-far operated anonymously in its fight for sex-positivity and safety on campus. I have been in contact with the group for a couple of weeks, having first met Cintron-Muniz at Ram Town, where she and other S.A.G.E.S. members had been collecting signatures on their petition. Now, on Oct. 29, they are discussing what it means to go public and just how they are going to do it.

As the rest of the group trickles in, we find that the noise in the lounge is becoming too much, or maybe that the distance between our congregation and the financiers’ group study at the next table is a little too close for comfort. It is a beautiful day for late October and we move outside, from the clinical interior of the business building to a small table in the plaza just in front of Hughes.

I naively ask who the leader of the movement is. “Or is this an Occupy Wall Street type of thing?”

Rachel Field, FCRH ’15, laugh and tells me, while it isn’t Occupy Wall Street, there is no “leader,” but rather some people who are more involved then others. We sit at the circular table outside of Hughes with some of the “core” members of the coalition at Rose Hill. Field, who evokes a Rosie the Riveter style with a red patterned headscarf, sits to my left, Cintron-Muniz to her left, Alexandra Leen, FCRH ’16, to her left, and Beth Chang, FCRH ’15, to my right.

We begin with the origin story of S.A.G.E.S. Field says she has been an activist for six years, working with such groups as Women Organized to Resist and Defend (W.O.R.D.) and Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R.). “I was talking over the summer with a bunch of my W.O.R.D. comrades and we were just talking about Hobby Lobby and everything that was going on with Hobby Lobby,” she says. One of the women makes a noise of disgust. “Don’t even get me started,” Field says.

“[W.O.R.D. had organized] a protest and only about ten people showed up,” Field says. “We were really disappointed. These are huge issues that are really affecting us, so how is it that only ten people showed up? And it got me thinking about how Hobby Lobby is related to what is going on here at Fordham and it got the wheels going. ‘You know what, change starts from our communities.’”

The S.A.G.E.S. movement, then, is a very real reaction not only to the traditional value-influenced policies of Fordham but also the present political climate.

“This moment in time is very specific,” Cintron-Muniz adds. “We are closer than ever before of the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned. I think that there have just been a lot of things building up over the past five or ten years that have been specifically targeted against women being able to access birth control, women being able to access healthcare and, in general, a lot of things with access and just our basic safety and health. Not just at Fordham, I’m talking about country-wide movement to limit women’s decision-making ability.”

“I feel like campus right now is ready for this to happen,” Leen says. She mentions the findings of the Office of Postsecondary Education of the U.S. Department of Education which said Fordham led Jesuit schools in on-campus sexual assault claims filed between 2010 and 2012. “[The administration was] trying to figure out what to do, where to start, if something like this happened, how to help the person this happened to. And I don’t understand how they can do that without promoting sex positivity and promoting birth control and condoms and basically general information about sex.”

This is one of their main points of contention; the lack of a basic dialogue, both when it comes to sex and sexual education and safety as well as the problems they, as a renegade club not approved by the Office of Student Leadership and Community Development partaking in “guerrilla activism,” as one Ram columnist wrote.

“Dean Rodgers talks a lot about the culture of campus, how we are the agents of cultural change on campus, because we create the culture here,” Cintron-Muniz says. “We are trying to build a culture that includes sex-positivity, includes people being able to make decisions for themselves, and having the tools to be able to make all the possible decisions that they could make, that are healthy in positive ways. And we can’t create that culture if it is outlawed on campus, essentially.”

Earlier that day, Dean Rodgers had canceled a meeting with S.A.G.E.S. At the time of our group interview, he or his office had not rescheduled.

A major issue with the Fordham administration for the members of S.A.G.E.S. is their seemingly long list of assumptions.

“There is an assumption by some of the deans that everybody just knows sex and knows how to take care of that,” Leen says. “And when you are recruiting from such a huge base of schools that are just like Fordham, that have had rules like this, some people have had no health education. We are in college now and if there were ever a time to do it, then it would be now, to learn about sex.”

Another assumption is the students’ willingness to reflect on these larger issues internally. “I think that there is an assumption that we can just talk about this amongst ourselves and obviously some people did do that and some people are ready for that and some people are super self-studied or are in classrooms where they are discussing these types of things,” Cintron-Muniz says, but for others, we have to make the conversation, she argues. “If we are going to be proactive about these things, it is super important because people get hurt because of these things, because they don’t know what consent is, because they don’t know how to put on a condom right.”

But making conversation and causing cultural change isn’t easily accomplished, and being an anonymous group doesn’t help. Besides from petitioning around campus, weekly meetings and posting fliers not approved by OSLCD around campus, the campaign has really been one fought on the web, through a Facebook page, a Change.org petition, a Twitter account and a Tumblr site.

“As an organizer for so long,” Field says, “one thing I’ll tell you is that you can’t organize on the Internet. You can’t organize on a blog. You can’t organize without having conversations with people, face-to-face. When we have face-to-face conversations, we build a movement.”

“We are also real people. Coming forward, the stories we tell are not abstract. They are not something that Dean Rodgers can write-off as some sort of willy, nilly, frilly thing,” Field says. “It is something that happened to somebody, it is a real issue that is in your face and you need to deal with it. It is not just me, my story, my personal story. It’s every personal story, of everybody in S.A.G.E.S. and all of their friends and everyone they know and they bring that to the table and it becomes real when people realize there is a name to a face and there is an experience to the face.”

The consensus seems to be, at least for the four women at the table, that going public can only strengthen their cause.

Field also hopes that it will allow them to stop operating in the shadows. “I think going public is really the big moment in which we say ‘We are here to stay.’ S.A.G.E.S. is not something that will go away. It’s not something you can push away. It’s not something you can stop. It is something that will keep going because there is such a huge power base behind us. It’s a thousand student signatures.

The sun has just about set and the Bronx night chill is setting in. The DJ playing the contemporary hits is packing his stuff up as the rest of Campus Activity Board starts packing up the tables and activities set up alongside Edward’s Parade. Over by the McGinley Center, students prepare for a vigil for victims of police brutality. We begin to wrap up our conversation so the activists at our table can attend the event.

“I think that people will definitely try to stop us and it will be easier for them to try when they know who we are,” Leen, the only member at the table who won’t be graduating in May, says before I turn the recorder off. “I don’t think that is going to stop us, though.”

They’ve finalized their plan to go public. The date and time are set; Nov. 3, 12:30 p.m.

Kirstin Bunkley/The Observer

Asst. Opinions Co-Editor and Copy Editor
Published: February 12, 2014

We still have a couple more years until the United States. goes into a frenzy for the 2016 Presidential Election, but we already have potential candidates—well, mostly Republicans—putting their foot in their mouths while trying to appeal to Americans. It seems as if, while trying to promote their own political philosophies, they’re only further alienating themselves from the general public, whether it’s New Jersey Governor Chris Christie misleading the public by feigning ignorance about the George Washington Bridge lane closures or Texas Senator Ted Cruz pledging “no amnesty” on immigration reform.

Kirstin Bunkley/The Observer
Kirstin Bunkley/The Observer

Unfortunately for the Republicans, these weren’t the last displays of their political ineptitude. On Jan. 23, during a Republic National Committee meeting to discuss the gender gap, presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee tried to appeal to women by calling them strong and independent, but in the same vein, also claimed that they cannot “control their libidos” if they have to receive federally-funded birth control from “Uncle Sugar.”

Upon hearing Huckabee’s speech, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund released a statement saying, “Birth control is basic, preventive health care for women. It helps women plan their pregnancies and manage their lives, and many women use it for a variety of other medical reasons. […] The fact that Mike Huckabee doesn’t understand what birth control does is a perfect illustration of why decisions about birth control should be left to a woman and her doctor, without interference from politicians.”

To suggest that federally-funded birth control is like permitting promiscuity only belies the fact that Huckabee is completely ignorant when it comes to this issue. In fact, based on a study conducted by Guttmacher Institute in November 2011, 58 percent of women who use birth control use it for other medical reasons besides pregnancy prevention, and about 762,000 women who use it have never even been sexually active, which immediately crosses out Huckabee’s concern for overactive libidos.

Just because the government is willing to dole out assistance to women, and women are willing to accept it, does not insinuate that they are damsels in distress who are in need of some knight in shining armor or an “Uncle Sugar,” as Huckabee put it. In many cases, government assistance isn’t enabling women to be idle and be “a victim of their gender” but rather, providing them with the foundation to rise up and be independent. Democrats aren’t force-feeding them the pills, but giving them an inch so that they can take a mile.

Essentially, Mike Huckabee implied that any group who needs assistance or is given more rights is too weak to take care of themselves. Huckabee may as well have said that, by pushing for more jobs and an increase in the minimum wage, Democrats are suggesting that Americans are too inept and unqualified to find work themselves or get a job that pays more money.

By making contraception more available, Democrats aren’t taking away women’s independence but giving them more of it. Women who did start families early—perhaps because they couldn’t afford birth control—typically do not have strong academic backgrounds and, therefore, are at a disadvantage when it comes to securing good and competitive jobs. This is not to say that birth control automatically guarantees a good education and career, but it does give women a sense of control over their reproductive organs, as well as the ability to decide when to start a family.

Considering Republicans have a small female voter base, Huckabee was trying to convince Republicans to do more to change that while simultaneously convincing women that Republicans, unlike Democrats, don’t want to coddle them, but empower them to take care of themselves. That plan, however, only backfired because not only are Republicans dissatisfied with him, but he may have potentially managed to shirk off the few female proponents that Republicans had. The Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus, who had initially held the meeting to discuss how to appeal to female voters, chastised Huckabee for his choice of words. Not to mention, according to CBS News, many other Republicans expressed discontent because his speech took the spotlight away from other speeches concerning women as well as a “Rising Stars” forum that showcased five up-and-coming female Republican leaders.

Huckabee may have tried to backtrack and argue that his grudge is against Democrat treatment of women rather than birth control, but the damage has already been done. His comments about Democrats taking advantage of women’s reproductive issues only made Democrats look more caring and understanding towards women. While Huckabee may have had noble (although misguidedly so) intentions, it seems that he may have just nipped the Republican Party’s chances of increasing their female support in the bud.

Bryancalabro via Wikimedia Commons
Bryancalabro via Wikimedia Commons
Bryancalabro via Wikimedia Commons

Contributing Writer
Published: November 14, 2013

In his 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” Pope Paul VI made several predictions about the effects of widespread artificial contraceptive use. He believed it would result in a lowering of moral standards, a rise in infidelity and births out of wedlock, increased objectification of women and government coercion. But is birth control really the root of societal degeneracy? Are condoms the source of all evil? The Church may be onto something about declining morality, but contraception isn’t the culprit.

Defining moral standards can be rather messy, as one person’s values are sometimes another’s vices. But for many people, tradition is morality. This is especially true for religious institutions, including the Catholic Church, which relies on longstanding teachings and precedents to inform doctrine.

Contemporary statistics indicate that there has been a dramatic change in the “traditional” family structure since the sexual revolution of the 1960s; one look at the percentages of single parents, divorce rates and birthrates and this becomes obvious. While contraception has a role, it is most likely not the primary reason. The Church’s teachings on human dignity and the value of human life are of great merit, but a universal proscription against contraception is problematic, especially considering the media’s high levels of influence on moral decay and the fact that not all users of contraceptives are promiscuous.

Many adopt their attitudes about sex and sexuality from media consumption, and often, these are not in alignment with the traditional family or long-term monogamy. Few would insist that society benefits from sexualizing and objectifying women and men, yet this seems to have increased steadily in media and popular culture since the sexual revolution. Turn on your television—the doctrine that “sex sells” is ever-present. This imagery is also in much of our music, art, movies and advertisements, and this constant exposure shapes people’s desires and expectations.

We must also remember that the promiscuous and the liberated are not the only users of contraception. People in monogamous relationships also make use of the pill and of condoms, but more for the purpose of preventing pregnancy than disease, which is already safeguarded against through monogamy between two healthy individuals. These users are still controversial in the eyes of many Catholic hierarchs due to church teachings on the sanctity of all human life, born and unborn. However, on the spectrum of declining moral standards, compared to the unwed and non-monogamous, they are considered much more moral—even though they too are using the very same forms of birth control.

As the Church reorients itself towards modern issues, it may wish to reconsider such a harsh stance on contraception.


Staff Writer
Published: April 7, 2013

On Friday April 5, a judge lifted the age and sale restriction on the morning-after pill for emergency contraception. According to the New York Times, rather than obtaining a prescription, girls 16 and under now have access to the morning-after pill over-the-counter. Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) students voiced their opinions on what they said they consider a controversial decision.

The legalization of the over-the-counter contraception is called Plan B-Step One. The pill has the ability to prevent pregnancy if taken 72 hours after sexual intercourse. According to Pam Belluck’s article in The New York Times, “Judge Strikes Down Age Limits on Morning-After Pill,” the judge, Edward R. Korman, ruled that the Food and Drug Administration must make the emergency contraceptive universally available to girls within 30 days.

However, the morning-after pill causes controversy and tension amongst many. In Belluck’s article, Anna Higgins, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Center, argues that the morning-after pill can make adolescents even more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases. “The ruling places the health of young girls at risk,” quoted Higgins in the New York Times. Similarly, some students at FCLC were also discouraged of Plan B-Step One’s negative impact on girls.

According to Elizabeth Rimsky, FCLC ’16, the morning-after pills can also be morally harmful to girls. “Girls, especially if they are 14 through 16 year old teens, will be raised into this bad environment where sex won’t be taken seriously,” she said. “If such contraception is made over-the-counter for them, a girl will live a life recklessly and take the meaning of sex for granted.”

Kiara Franqui, FCLC ’16, said she agrees that a free access to the morning-after pill may initiate a negative influence on the characters of teenage girls. “If the contraception pill is readily available over the counter, then teenage girls will be automatically drawn to do things they aren’t ready for,” she said. “Overall, I disagree with the ruling. If girls are not ready to bring life into the world, then they should not have the right to use the pill.”

But despite the growing tension from the pill, there are still many who agree with Korman’s ruling, and approve of the lifted age and sale restriction on Plan-B Step One.

According to Nalina Bhasin, FCLC ’15, girls should make the decision for themselves on whether or not it is right to use the contraception pill. “If you are able to go out and buy it, it [the morning-after pill] is perfectly acceptable. For any age, it is your choice; you can do anything that seems right for you,” she said. “And if you are having sex, you might as well have the pill; you want to be smart about it and not simply not doing anything.”

Agreeing with Bhasin, Carinna Gano, FCLC ’14, said, “I think it is totally fine, especially because the age people start having sex is different for everyone; you cannot set an age for it. You need to be able to buy it, whatever age you are, because I don’t think the decision to have sex should involve worrying about getting pregnant,” she said. “If you are emotionally ready, then you should not have to deal with that consequence.”

Faculty members call for “clear statement of the basis for these funding and censorship decisions” from McShane and Fordham administration.

Managing Editor
Published: November 15, 2012
Updated: 8:20pm

Tracy Higgins, professor of law at Fordham Law, and Bridgette Dunlap, Human Rights Fellow at the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice, with support and input from other Fordham Law faculty members, have written an open letter to Fordham President Father Joseph M. McShane, S.J. in response to the funding of Ann Coulter’s Fordham visit, originally scheduled for Nov. 29 but since has been cancelled. The letter, circulated to Fordham Law faculty by professor of law Steve Thel, asks for a clear stance from the administration on its previously inconsistent support, both in promotion and funding policies, of student groups and events. The letter also asks for support from the student body through a petition form at the bottom of their address to McShane.

The group calls for “a clear statement of the basis for these funding and censorship decisions in light of their manifest inconsistency.”

(Kyle Cassidy/Wikimedia Commons)

“Though the College Republicans withdrew the invitation to Ms. Coulter in light of the outcry from their peers, the problem remains that the University was willing to allocate over $10,000 to this event even while denying funding to other student and departmental initiatives featuring speakers or topics with which it disagrees,” the letter reads.

While the writer celebrates McShane’s decision to distance the university from Coulter’s message it continues to say that “we remain deeply troubled, however, by the University’s inconsistency regarding which events it denies funding or otherwise censors on campus,” specifically bringing the examples of the Vagina Monologues, a controversial event by Fordham undergraduates each year to raise awareness of violence against women.

“[I]t was a wonderful statement that Father McShane made and a very robust defense of academic freedom, discourse, and dialogue, and we want to be sure that we are living up to that and it doesn’t seem that we are,” Dunlap said.

The group also mentions administration’s opposition to Fordham’s pro-choice advocacy while anti-abortion clubs recieve school funding and the red tape faced by Prescribe Fordham 2 events, an off-campus birth control clinic night, in attempting to post flyers in Fordham.

“I think that’s pretty problematic and not reflective of the kind of place Fordham is,” Dunlap said of Fordham’s discrimination between forms of student involvement.”Fordham is a place where we have scholarship and debate and respectful discussion of different ideas. So, we shouldn’t be silencing the legitimate conversations that we ought to be having.”

“Why are these forms of student expression and association denied support while the Coulter event was not? Is pro-choice advocacy or the Vagina Monologues more inconsistent with the University’s mission than Coulter’s hate speech you rightly decry? Are they less entitled to respect in the free exchange of ideas in the Academy?”

While they may be disappointed in the administration for its lack of consistent action, Dunlap said it was “fortunate” how the Coulter disagreement was handled by students.

“I have been very impressed by the poise and constructiveness and thoughtfulness of the undergraduate groups that I have seen working on some of these issues. T]he undergraduates worked it out amongst themselves and I think that is a situation where the solution to what was likely to be pretty problematic speech was more speech and that the undergraduates appealed to each other. I think that is wonderful.”

To read the open letter to McShane in its entirety or to voice your support of the response, click here.

Linda Jordan, Estelle Wagner and Emily Wolf are volunteers at the Prescribe Fordham event that was held at John Jay College of Criminal Justice on Oct. 24. (Emily Sawicki/The Observer)

Editor-in-Chief and Asst. News Editor
Published: October 25, 2012

The Fordham chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ) held their second annual Prescribe Fordham event in the John Jay College of Criminal Justice conference center on Wednesday, Oct. 24. The event included a birth control clinic and sexual health fair for Fordham students, as well as students from neighboring colleges.

Despite securing the sponsorship of Fordham’s departments of women’s studies and sociology and anthropology, the organizers of this year’s Prescribe Fordham were denied permission to advertise the event in Fordham College at Lincoln Center’s (FCLC) public spaces. Keith Eldredge, dean of students at FCLC, sited conflict with the university’s mission as the reason for not approving the group’s fliers.

“It connects to our identity as a Catholic Jesuit university, and obviously we are not an institution that’s indoctrinating folks in the Catholic faith,” Eldredge said, “but this is an event that includes an activity that is contrary to Catholic teaching, and so as an institution, part of our mission is not to promote activities that our contrary to church teaching, so in that way it conflicts with the mission of the university.”

Emily Wolf, president of the Fordham chapter of LSRJ, said that the organizers believed the fliers would be approved this year, because two academic departments at Fordham sponsored the event.

Eldredge, however, said, “Academic departments may sponsor or advocate on different concerns or issues, but that does not translate necessarily to the university as a whole taking a statement on something.”

According to Wolf, president of the Fordham chapter of LSRJ, the main goal of this year’s event was to provide students with access to “uncensored” birth control consultations with doctors from the Institute for Family Health.

“One of the things we learned last year is that there is definitely a need for birth control prescriptions at Fordham,” Wolf said. “Based on that information, we wanted to continue this event to insure the women we helped last year as well as other women have access to meet with a doctor.”

Wolf and Fordham’s chapter of LSRJ have argued since last year’s Prescribe Fordham that the Fordham health centers are censored from properly prescribing birth control even to students with medical need for it. This practice, they allege, undermines the university’s written policy that medical exceptions can be made to the policy of not prescribing birth control to students, in keeping with Jesuit and Catholic teachings.

“Some students aren’t comfortable with going to their health center for a few reasons,” Wolf said. “They need something like this so they don’t have to worry about school policies getting in the way of their health needs.”

Lauren DeLuca, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’15, was one of the undergraduate students who attended the event after hearing of it from ISIS, FCLC’s feminist club. Deluca said she saw a need for events like Prescribe Fordham at FCLC.

“I just think women’s reproductive health is important and not covered enough at all at Fordham,” DeLuca said. “It’s important for women to be proactive, and they’re giving us a really easy way to be proactive here. A lot of the information I already knew but it’s helpful to be able to sit down with a professional who will answer your questions. I would definitely like to see more events like this one.”

Doctors at the event from the Institute for Family Health were present to provide information about birth control options and insurance issues costs and coverage as well as to answer any questions from students. The students split into different groups with a couple doctors at each table. The doctors offered information pamphlets as well as private consultations.

Margaux Lazarin was one of the doctors from the Institute of Family Health. “In general, I think it’s important that women have access contraceptive options,” Lazarin said. “I was here last year, and I feel like there’s a lot of misinformation, and this is a really helpful way to inform both men and women.”

DeLuca said she noticed the effects of LSRJ’s problems in getting Prescribe Fordham advertised on campus. “I’ve seen a few people that I know, which is good but I feel like there would be more people if it could be advertised more at Fordham,” DeLuca said.

As for the future of Prescribe Fordham, Wolf said, “I think we’re going to continue to provide this clinic every year until students have better access to the health care they need when they’re on campus.”

Women’s issues like abortion and birth control are key issues during this election, but women’s voices are missing from the discussion. (Todd Sumlin/Charlotte Observer/MCT)

Coverage of Women’s Issues has been Unfairly Dominated by Male Journalists 

Women’s issues like abortion and birth control are key issues during this election, but women’s voices are missing from the discussion. (Todd Sumlin/Charlotte Observer/MCT)

Asst. Opinions Editor
Published: September 19, 2012

It is no secret that the hot topics of the 2012 election have had a lot to do with women. From abortion to birth control, women’s reproductive rights have gained a significant role in candidate’s stump speeches. But with women’s rights in the spotlight, it doesn’t make sense that women themselves would be put on the back burner as men, yet again, take the stage. There’s something wrong with this picture.

Survey data released by The Women’s Media Center showed three-quarters of newspapers’ presidential coverage being written by men. In a study, horrifically named “SILENCED: Gender Gap in the 2012 Election” presented by 4thEstate.net, we see that the content is significantly biased as well.

When it came to the conversation about abortion, 81 percent of persons quoted in print media were men, seven percent were organizations and a wimpy 12 percent were women quoted. When conversations started about Planned Parenthood, women’s rights and birth control, the number of women quoted was slightly higher, but still tragically low, having percentages of 26 percent, 31 percent and 19 percent respectively. Furthermore, in front page articles covering the 2012 election that concerned topics concerning abortion or birth control, men were up to seven times more likely to be quoted than women were. This was true across the board for all major media outlets and publications. So what does this mean?

Women are significantly under-represented in the 2012 election coverage and in turn, are being repressed. 4thEstate.net suggests that “This gender gap undermines the media’s credibility,” because men are not a primary source for this information, and without a woman’s voice to act as a counterpoint, an effective argument cannot be had.

Now, I’m not saying that the coverage of women’s issues in the 2012 election should be all women, because that would be biased as well. If that were so, we would be getting all first-hand accounts, and arguments that ran the risk of being too personal or too emotion-driven rather than fact-driven. But regardless, the coverage should be equal or favoring women. It is 2012. As women, we can vote, earn the same pay as any man and hold the same positions in the workforce. We are equals, and we are more than ready to fight this “War on Women” ourselves, without a man taking the driver’s seat for us.

Because topics such as abortion and birth control are up for debate, the coverage in the media is generally made up of “subjective insight,” which really means that these men are sitting back and just voicing their opinions on women’s issues without actually doing research to back up their assertions. Abortion and birth control are something they don’t, and never can, fully understand. Unless they’ve experienced first-hand an unwanted pregnancy, the inability to afford birth control, or felt that their sexual health was being repressed, then they simply cannot have a strong, reliable voice on the topic.

As a woman today, I am offended by this media coverage, for more reasons than one. Growing up, I wasn’t too aware of the gender gaps around me. Most of my coherent life took place in the new millennium, and I never thought I would have to worry about inequalities because I am a girl. But as I get older, I realize that this is a war that is, sadly and tragically, still un-won. It may not be as big as voting rights, or the right to venture out into the workplace, or to live a life that doesn’t revolve around a husband and children, but it exists. It’s the little things, like not being heard in the media… on issues that primarily concern us.

Yes, there are men out there that sympathize with women in this debate, and think that we should have every right to do whatever we see fit regarding our bodies and our reproductive health. But there are also plenty of women who are pro-life, and don’t see it as a right being taken from us. These are women who see it as simply “right” and “wrong” in a very black and white sense of the world, when these issues are every shade of gray. Reproductive health and abortion are loaded issues, and we need to make space for all women’s voices, whichever their part of the spectrum, to be heard.

If I were a man, I would feel way out of my comfort zone writing about women’s issues, because it is not something I have lived and experienced. We, the women, are the primary sources for this information, and we should be used for that. Men do not tell our story the way it is actually happening, and that is no fault of their own. It is time for us to take the stage, and correctly present the information to the public for a well-informed debate. To put it simply, I quote the infamous Rachel Green: “No uterus, no opinion.”