Georgetown University holds its ground with Plan A Hoyas

Members of Plan A Hoyas met with administrators on Tuesday to discuss Georgetown’s sexual health policies. Although they promised to meet with Plan A again, the Georgetown administrators who were present at the meeting do not seem to have committed to altering any University policies in response to pressure from the group.

Plan A members have not responded to several requests for comments about the meeting, but Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson described the meeting in an e-mail to Vox:

“We had a productive and frank conversation with the students, and we plan to meet with them again in the near future.  I reiterated to them that as a Catholic and Jesuit university, we hold fast to our core values, and we remain committed to policies and approaches that reflect our identity.”

The University had agreed to this meeting following two high-profile GAAP weekend protests on Friday and Saturday where members of Plan A and other groups protested for student access to contraceptives on campus, changes to the University’s student insurance plan, and expanded space for dialogue about positions that the University considers antithetical to its Catholic identity.

The group netted especially strong coverage from their protest on Saturday, where three Plan A members chained themselves to the statue of Georgetown Founder John Carroll, which any number of outlets from the local NBC network to Feministing picked up.

21 Comments on “Georgetown University holds its ground with Plan A Hoyas

  1. I’m assuming no one got suspended? Or is this not being publicized…

  2. While it’s a cause that probably 80% of the student body agrees with, it’s so freaking obvious that it’s something that a JESUIT UNIVERSITY CAN NOT PHYSICALLY CHANGE.

    The protests are just waste of time. Clearly people are bored and want to feel like they’re fighting the man. This energy would be much better spent in effecting change through mediums that will actually get something done. Overstated protests (including false information) during GAAP weekends are not going to change policies that are driven by standards of the Catholic Church worldwide.

    While I, and most of the other students here, agree with what Plan A believes, these protests are really just alienating support and rubbing the student body the wrong way.

  3. This post says absolutely nothing. All you did was post a vague quote from Todd Olson that says nothing, and used a flashy headline which is actually misleading because you still have no idea what went on in the meeting. Just another example of sensationalist “journalism” from the Voice.

  4. Plan A should focus on undermining, rather than changing university policies. Let the university keep its policies, but make sure in the meantime that all of students’ reproductive needs can be met. The H*yas for Choice condom distribution network is probably more robust than the free condom network that most schools have even with official support. Set up an alternative website with all the information you say GU lacks. Even look into providing an alternative group insurance policy that students can buy, or contact an insurer to see if they’re willing to sell a mini-policy that students can buy alongside the university policy.

    What matters is not the university policy, which should not change. What Plan A should do is make the university policies irrelevant.

    We students spend way too much time trying to act within the confines of the university when most of our problems can be more effectively solved outside of them. That’s one reason that most European countries have laws allowing for independent student governments that are legally protected. Both the university and the student body benefit if these people just SOLVE the problems instead of trying to get the university to solve them for you. This isn’t rocket science! Do something about it, don’t just friggin protest!

    Seriously though, leave the university alone and find other ways to protect these rights for GU students. What matters is facts on the ground, not policy.

  5. What the hell, it’s been three days and no blog post or anything from Plan A? I don’t want the standard sound byte from Olson; I’ve heard that a million times, and it doesn’t justify many of the points that Plan A brought up. Specifically, I’d be quite interested to hear why Olson said birth control is covered on faculty plans and not student plans — I didn’t think the Catholic church was very big on conditional morality.

    @so…: are you familiar with FERPA? If FERPA didn’t exist, do you think that it would be reasonable for Georgetown to be going around making disciplinary records public?

    @Ridiculous: What can they not “physically (sic) change”? Contraceptives are available on many Catholic-affiliated campuses. Georgetown already insures birth control for certain groups. The HPV vaccine was a financial decision. Is the church going to cut off funding if Georgetown educates its students better on sexuality?

  6. @IdeaMan

    What Catholic-affiliated campuses provide condoms?

  7. I’m too lazy to find a list or more recent article, but:

    “Of 133 Catholic colleges responding to the survey, only 16 reported making contraceptives available to students, the group said. When contacted by the Associated Press, three of the 16 denied providing contraceptives. Officials at others among the 16 did not dispute the survey listing but said there was no formal policy for providing contraceptives. Instead, campus medical professionals had the option of helping students obtain birth control, they said.”

    That said, at least we’re not Stonehill who effectively shut down their equivalent to HFC.

  8. @IdeaMan

    Interesting, I didn’t know that. However, the fact that only 10% of schools in any way provide them, less than 10% actually “do not dispute” it, and none of them actually actively provide it says something. The fact that they don’t actively forbid their staff from “helping students get contraceptives” is a far cry from providing them in the manner of most universities, who go out of their way to make them available and hand them out. At best, they’re turning a blind eye — and sometimes even denying that they’re doing so.

    And I know people who have gotten the pill prescribed at SHC, which I would count as “helping students get contraceptives.”

    At any rate, your statement that “Contraceptives are available on many Catholic-affiliated campuses” seems to be both an exaggeration (13 passively allow it out of 133) and vague. Contraceptives are available at Georgetown — in Red Square or from your dorm condom captain, or from CVS; and the pill can be prescribed at SHC. So by that measure it’s “available” here, too.

  9. I should have been more specific: from the article I linked previously, “16 reported making contraceptives available to students.” There was an article about this in the WaPo back in 2002 but I can’t seem to find it right now. I also know that you can get BC prescribed at the SHC — I cut out the last sentence of the paragraph I pasted for that reason.

    My real point here is that it’s not as black and white as many have made it seem. “You go to Catholic school, you should have expected this” is a gross oversimplification. Catholic schools vary in how strictly they apply the rules. For example, “Catholic University of America has banned sex, masturbation, pornography, and condom possession among unmarried students for years” ( Holy crap, you can get in trouble for even HAVING a condom?

    So, why can’t we have condoms available for purchase on campus? The Corp rents space from Georgetown, why can’t they carry condoms? I would argue (I won’t right now) that this is pretty similar to the contrast between Georgetown and Notre Dame’s policies on cohabitation — that you agree to not have people of the opposite sex in your room overnight.

    At this point it should be pretty obvious that “Catholic” means different things to different schools. Plan A is simply arguing for a looser application of the Catholic position on sexuality and birth control.

    P.S. (not directed at you, Hoya) Where is the outrage from the Catholic students that birth control is covered by faculty insurance? And I’m still waiting for anyone to justify how the disparity in coverage is anything but a financial decision covered by a convenient and hypocritical “Catholic university” excuse.

  10. @IdeaMan

    You make some good points, but I don’t think they prove what you want them to prove. If anything, you’re making the argument that Georgetown is already at the very liberal end of the “what it means to be Catholic” spectrum — which is what critics of the university like the Cardinal Newman Society have been saying for years. Given that we’re already so liberal for a Catholic school, what is your argument?

    Is it that since there is a spectrum of “what it means to be Catholic” it means that there are no bounds to that spectrum in either direction? And that therefore, as long as Georgetown is comfortable being “less Catholic” than other schools it should be comfortable with being not Catholic at all?

    I think the reason your arguments may be frustrated lies in the concept of “difference of degree” versus “difference in kind.” Georgetown is already on the liberal end of the Catholic spectrum, as you noted with your example above. However, that spectrum has a clear stopping point: we’re less Catholic — but we’re still firmly Catholic (hence a difference in degree, not a difference in kind). The spectrum might allow us to avoid banning “sex, masturbation… and condom possession” like CUA; it might even allow us to turn a blind eye to condom distribution on campus (which I’d argue we already do); but it probably doesn’t allow us to actively PROMOTE contraception as many other non-religious universities do.

    We shouldn’t cross the line into being un-Catholic. We can push the line, we can go the teensiest bit farther that remains to the left of us as a Catholic institution. But there are lines that we cannot cross and remain Catholic — by any definition.

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  12. @Hoya

    “We shouldn’t cross the line into being un-Catholic. We can push the line, we can go the teensiest bit farther that remains to the left of us as a Catholic institution. But there are lines that we cannot cross and remain Catholic — by any definition.”

    Can you define the line or lines where Catholicism becomes un-Catholicism? (side note: that’s a bulky term, can we just call it Episcopal?) Is it at birth control? Nothing else really matters except that? You can sell cigarettes, have an alcohol policy that essentially licenses underage drinking, and not enforce the cohabitation policy at all, but if you sell condoms or insure birth control, now you’ve cross the line, you’re not a Catholica university anymore. If it’s a combination of all these things that would push us across the “line”, then fine let’s trade condoms for cigarettes- much healthier for everyone.

    If it’s not a combination of all these lax slightly un-Catholic policies that, if we added to that the selling of condoms, would push us over the line, if the condoms issue actually is the be-all end-all of whether a university is Catholic or not, then the position of Georgetown being at the liberal end of the spectrum loses its effectiveness, because a university could be as conservative as CUA, allow condoms to be sold, and still not be considered a Catholic university. So which is it, the accumulation of evil liberal policies that make the University cross the line into being un-Catholic, or one issue that decides our relationship to this Holy Line.

    And really, providing birth control through insurance for faculty is still a degree of being Catholic, but doing so for students, isn’t just another “difference in degree”?

  13. @NotGregMonroe the “line” is all based around applied Catholic ethics, and its actually pretty straightforward. There is an entire field of Catholic social teaching and Catholic ethics, based on Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, etc. that basically hashes out all the Church’s stances on various issues. None of it comes from the Bible, or from something the Pope just decides, or visions from God, etc.. it’s all based on traditional ethical reasoning. The Catholic Church has reasoned that birth control and contraceptives are unethical because they remove the procreative aspect of sexual intercourse, which they reason is a fundamental, intrinsic aspect of sex (again, that’s coming from Aristotle, not the Bible). Therefore they cannot condone the things Plan A is asking for, like funding and distributing condoms, in their institutions. Smoking is unhealthy but not unethical– that’s why Georgetown can sell them and still be Catholic.

  14. I believe, and I may be wrong, that the pill is prescribed for non-contraceptive reasons at SHC, which is how they get around the contraception issue. (See here for non-contraceptive reasons: Of course, it’s more than likely just a work-around that allows SHC to get away with it, when in reality it’s mostly used for contraception. To be fair, the Catholic church is famous (infamous) for getting around it’s own policies….the rich and powerful (read: Kennedy’s) have been getting annulments for years when, clearly, it’s a divorce. And, I’m pretty sure pedophilia is against church doctrine…’nuf said.

  15. I’ve noticed I have an inability to use apostrophes properly in my post above. My bad

  16. @Hoya: I think NGM’s post above summed up most of what I was trying to get at. Am I advocating for a greater liberalization of an already liberal (by Catholic standards) university? Yes. The point that I was trying (and not really succeeding) to make was that we’re not crossing into uncharted territory here.

    @Meghan: I don’t think I or NGM needs a lecture on Catholic ethics. The unitive and procreative aspects of sex are inseparable, I get it. You’ve failed to address the practical applications of this, though. As I said above, Georgetown will rent you a dorm room without placing restrictions on sex or having someone of the opposite sex over for the night. GU is not endorsing either of these activities, they are simply not actively prohibiting it. So why explicitly prohibit the Corp from selling condoms in its stores?

  17. Because not every time 2 people enter a room do they have sex, but every time someone uses a condom a mortal sin is committed. Also, there is the issue of practicality.

  18. but what if you use a condom for waterballoons? those things stretch waaay far

  19. I dream of a day when Georgetown will drop Catholic social teaching for Nickelback social teaching. Some of the lessons:

    Look at this photograph.
    Everyone care, nobody cry, everyone love, nobody lie, everyone share and swallow their pride.
    There’s also the classic parable of the man who couldn’t make it as a wise, a poor man stealing, or a blind man. He was sick of sight without a sense of feeling.

    All of these lessons and more seek to answer the ultimate question in Nickelbackism: How the hell’d we wind up like this? Call me up and I’ll send you photocopies of this notebook I write in sometimes. I don’t mind if Georgetown bases its educational philosophy on these writings.



  20. I really wish I could get myself to care more about this issue either way.

    However, marry me, Chad Kroeger.

    — jaded junior

  21. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”
    Jesus said it; we need to live it. He said it for our benefit, for our greatest good. It’s up to us to trust and obey Him on this, even though for many of us chastity is so difficult. But what is so wonderful is having His peace and joy in our hearts. Purity, humility, integrity – so vastly superior to giving into lust, intellectual pride, and self-deceit!

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