Debates concerning sexual and reproductive rights are always contentious, particularly at a Catholic university like Georgetown. Rather than shy away from argument, however, the unofficial student coalition Plan A: Hoyas for Reproductive Justice recently brought a number of pressing issues to the forefront in an open letter to University President John DeGioia. While all of the issues presented in the letter deserve consideration, a number of them were not addressed or glossed over in a written response by Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson.
First, Olson fails to make any mention of requests for condoms or emergency contraception by the Plan A Hoyas. These are serious considerations that, despite their sensitive nature at a Jesuit university, merit a response from administrators. Second, although Plan A’s position regarding greater support for victims of sexual assault fails to take into account certain legal complications, Olson’s response raises at least one serious question that is never addressed. If Georgetown is not equipped to deal with the forensic evidence in the wake of sexual assault, will it provide transportation to Washington Center Hospital? (Hospital officials did not respond to requests for clarification of their policy.) Finally, Olson fails to address specific questions regarding Georgetown’s policies on sexual education for students.
In his letter, Olson insists that Georgetown encourages discussion on issues such as these, but concludes with a repetition of the party line: “As a Catholic and Jesuit university our policies must reflect our identity and our values.”
Certainly, Georgetown’s religious affiliation affects every student. Our Catholic and Jesuit traditions give us our strong sense of social justice and our guiding principal of cura personalis. But Georgetown’s Catholic identity should not restrict the resolution of issues, not just involving sex but also public health. The reality of sex at Georgetown requires a realistic solution.
Discussion of the issues raised by the Plan A coalition is essential, even if the issues may be at odds with Georgetown’s Catholic identity. While we cannot cast aside our University’s heritage, we also cannot let that heritage prevent us from growing into a safer, more open community.