Student activists move to end condom ban on campus


Gabriella Killett

Students sign a petition advocating for condoms to be sold on campus on Sept. 3, 2019.

Over a thousand Loyola students have signed a petition urging the university to provide them with access to condoms, despite the school’s Catholic identity.

Political science sophomore Dylan Ritter and English writing senior Britton Hansen are spearheading the campaign that began last spring to allow a variety of condoms to be sold in the campus market.

Ritter said the petition has 1,130 signatures and they have collected over 150 surveys from students about sexual health and access to condoms.

Over 50% of respondents to the group’s survey cited not having used a condom during sexual intercourse with the number one cited reason being lack of on-campus access.

“For Loyola to not even to have (condoms) on campus is literally dangerous. For them to not have access to birth control prescriptions is literally a healthcare necessity for some people,” Ritter said.

The most recent time campus policy on contraceptives was tested was fall 2018, when condoms were stocked in the bookstore and pregnancy tests were planned to be sold, due to Barnes & Noble College Bookstores taking over the location. The move was quickly reversed by the university because the contraceptives were “not aligned with our Catholic values,” according to Laura Freirichs, former president of marketing and communications.

The student-led group has not yet brought their petition to the university, but The Rev. Justin Daffron, S.J., Vice President of mission and ministry, commented on the situation.

“At the Mass of the Holy Spirit, I shared: ‘my sense is this year we need to listen deeply to every voice, especially the outliers, so we can truly grow as a community to understand and see the best in each other.’ And, so if students are interested in conversations about matters important to the Loyola Community, I remain committed to this approach on all issues and have an open door policy. To date, students have not requested a meeting and I’m just learning of their concerns.”

But for Michelle Erenberg, A’02, what she describes as a lack of access to on-campus contraceptives and sexual healthcare has continued to be a pressing concern.

Back when she was a student and the university offered its own insurance plan, Erenberg received health insurance from Loyola, but she said it did not cover off-campus doctors who provided sexual health services.

“I was relying on the health insurance I had through the school and the services that the health center provided, and those services did not include birth control,” Erenberg said.

That experience has shaped Erenberg’s opposition toward a yearly dilemma: donating money to her alma mater.

“I get called every year from the Alumni Association asking for a donation to the school, and I refuse to give a donation to Loyola until they are going to provide birth control and the full range of reproductive health services to their students on campus,” Erenberg said.

For Hansen, advocating for accessibility to sexual health resources on campus is necessary to implement the change she Ritter, and Erenberg see as necessary.

“I think that accessibility is a really important issue to a lot of people, and a lot of people have sex. I mean, you’re on a college campus,” Hansen said.

Public universities widely allow contraceptives to be given out by their health centers, but at Catholic colleges and universities, this is often not the case.

Some Jesuit institutions like Georgetown, Notre Dame, and Purdue allow hormonal birth control prescriptions to be written by nurse practitioners in their school’s health centers, according to USA Today. Other Jesuit schools, like Loyola, do not offer contraceptives on campus.

“I understand the concept of being abstinent, but not everyone’s going to be abstinent, and I think it’s a selfish thing to pursue, taking away the rights of others and their access to birth control and condoms based on your ideology,” Hansen said. “That’s also something that I really want to pursue to change on this campus.”

Hansen and Ritter’s passion for change initially began with the idea of chartering a reproductive rights club on campus, but they have since decided not to charter their organization and still experienced interest from students.

“I think us being an independent organization is a part of the appeal for a lot of these people,” said Hansen. “Working sort of underground and doing things without a lot of boundaries makes it a really positive experience without the restriction of administrative boundaries and guidelines.”

As a chartered club, Ritter said it would have been easier for the group to rent out rooms and have a spot at activities fairs, but he said that a recent meeting with Diana Ward, chief student conduct officer and Title IX deputy, gave him hope that they will be able to make change without officially being a Loyola organization.

“They (the university) are very receptive to us organizing as long as we go through the proper channels,” Ritter said.

Ritter said that, for him, the issue comes down to the fact that the student body is paying the school’s bills.

“Students aren’t going to want to sign up for a university that does not listen to its students- that ignores over a third of the student body,” Ritter said.