Lindsey Hennawi is a senior in A&S with a major in International Studies, a minor in Faith, Peace and Justice, and perhaps even a minor in Arabic before the year is over. She is focusing on human rights and conflict resolution in the Middle East. Even with all that incredible coursework, Hennawi humbly acknowledges that while her future ambitions are to travel and work in the field of human rights investigation and advocacy, she’s still just like the rest of us. (“Truth: I’m terrified of graduating and have no real life plans yet.”) Regardless of Lindsey’s future plans, she’s certainly making a difference here on BC’s campus as the current Director of Resources for BC Students for Sexual Health (BCSSH).
Practicing safe sex isn’t exactly a topic BC discusses regularly. It’s a difficult and highly controversial issue to address at a Jesuit Catholic university, but that hasn’t stopped Lindsey and her peers from being heard all around BC’s campus.
According to Lindsey, “BC Students for Sexual Health began with an unofficial but incredibly dedicated group of students (all of whom have since graduated, except for the current chair, Alicia Johnson), who banded together in 2009 to enact the referendum supported by 90% of the student body which demanded improved sexual health education and resources on campus, including access to condoms and prescription birth control, and affordable, confidential STI testing. These students recognized the critical lack of access to sexual health information and resources that existed – and still exists – on our campus. Today, we in BCSSH, through various initiatives and programming, do our best to change that.”
Though the group is probably most well-known for their condom distributions (which happen about two Fridays a month on the public sidewalks on CoRo and at Main Gate), BCSSH provides numerous other services, including Safe Sites and Super Safe Sites, Responsible Party Kits, different events (such as this past fall’s Sex Toy Bingo), and their informative website. They are also seeking to initiate dialogues about the sexual health issues we face on a Catholic campus.
The relationship between BCSSH and BC (both the administration and students) has been a little tricky. While the organization has received some support from certain university groups (like ODSD, Health Services, et. al.), they’ve also faced a lot of opposition and caused some controversy – including Lindsey herself.
“A lot of people are very opposed to what we do; I was once confronted by a Jesuit during a Friday condom distribution who accused us of degrading our fellow students and diminishing their human dignity by promoting safer sex practices. He shouted at students, discouraging them from accepting life-saving sexual health materials from us, and said a lot of misogynistic things in general. The incident sparked a round of letter to the editor writing and campus debate that highlighted the opposition we face – and thus how necessary we really are.”
It can be a complicated territory when religion is involved, especially when that religion governs your university. But for Lindsey and the other members of BCSSH, and for the countless students on BC’s campus that support them, it’s a territory worth entering.
“Basically, we want to make BC more accepting of sexual health. It's our belief that it is a university's responsibility to protect and promote the health of its students. Sexual health is no different. And we don't think that our university's Catholic status excuses it from this obligation, either – if anything, BC's ‘men and women for others’ mandate, and the Jesuit tradition of setting the world aflame, should encourage BC to support the policy changes for which we called in our referendum. It's a lofty goal, but so is everything worth pursuing. And BC didn't teach us to give up easily.”
Look for the new BCSSH sexual health blog every other week on Her Campus BC - coming this Thursday!