Opinion: Loyola neglects sexual health

In+this+Sept.+2019+file+photo%2C+Gabriel+Lesser%2C+political+science+sophomore%2C+holds+a+makeshift+sign+advertising+Lxyno+for+Sexual+Health%27s+petition+to+get+Loyola+to+provide+free+condoms+to+students.+Lxyno+for+Sexual+Health+was+active+throughout+fall+2019+and+spring+2020+advocating+for+sex+education+and+access+to+contraception+in+the+Loyola+student+community.+Photo+credit%3A+Michael+Bauer

In this Sept. 2019 file photo, Gabriel Lesser, political science sophomore, holds a makeshift sign advertising Lxyno for Sexual Health’s petition to get Loyola to provide free condoms to students. Lxyno for Sexual Health was active throughout fall 2019 and spring 2020 advocating for sex education and access to contraception in the Loyola student community. Photo credit: Michael Bauer

Austin Wallace, Peer to Peer Sexual Health Educator with Access Health

For many of us, this past year has been the first time we’ve had to contend with a major health crisis in our adult lives. Whether it’s friends, family or ourselves, most of us have felt the grave impact of the disease. But maybe, to just as many of us who know how COVID-19 has only served to exacerbate a myriad of underlying conditions, the pandemic represents yet another case of systematic public health failings. And finally, to those of us who have been fighting for you, our esteemed friends and colleagues, and your basic human right to sexual health and reproductive justice, it represents a convenient distraction on the part of our administration and a gross demonstration of their bias and hypocrisy.

Late fall of 2019, I joined a coalition of students whose purpose was to push the administration to fully commit to living up to their motto of “Cura Personalis,” or care for the whole person. When we were met with inaction and disregard, it became apparent that we the student body would have to uphold that oath where our institution had failed to do so.

As we learned during the AIDS crisis (which, for those who know the facts, never really ended), when it comes to matters of public health, silence is a direct form of violence. As with any modern act of warfare came a series of guerilla public health actions and interventions, all unofficial, all unapproved. Truthfully though, we never sought to draw the ire of the administration, only to provide the contraceptive and reproductive products, services and education that Loyola has irresponsibly denied to their student body.

Despite collecting hundred of points of data over two student surveys, showcasing their major areas of improvement in reproductive health and justice, we were told to work within the confines of our administration and to seek change from the inside. While traumatizing anti-choice events are constantly given time, space and financial support, Loyola continues to refuse hosting prochoice speakers they’ve deemed as “controversial.” With the suppression of our voices when we protest, and subsequent witch hunt of our friends and colleagues, it is evident that working within their system serves neither our purpose nor fulfills the responsibility we now shoulder to our campus community.

It is a responsibility that, since the pandemic began, we ourselves have failed to uphold. While we’ve been able to maintain our condom distribution campaign, there is so much more we could, and should be doing. While I can only speak for myself, I ask you to accept this is as my formal apology, and recommitment to standing up for your right to sexual health once again.