By Katie Meyer
SAGES (Students for Sex and Gender Equality and Safety), a coalition of Fordham students that earned attention in September for distributing condoms at President’s Ball, has officially brought its grievances to the university.
SAGES has published a list of complaints on its Tumblr and Twitter pages, the foremost of which are the lack of free and accessible condoms, on-campus access to birth control and STD testing, a free speech zone for students and the elimination of gendered guest policies in dorms.
While these demands have long been known to the public, they were not officially brought to university attention until Monday.
Shortly after noon on Monday, the group’s core members met outside of Cunniffe House. They planned to bring their petition directly to Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university. However, he was not in his office and they could not enter, so they settled for taping their demands, as well as their petition with more than 1000 signatures, on the door to his office.
Then they moved outside to have what SAGES organizer and founder Rachel Field, FCRH ’15, called a “speakout” across from Dealy Hall. The crowd, which was originally comprised of about 20 SAGES members and videographers, grew as passing students joined in.
“We shouted some chants about student power and women’s rights, then some individual statements of support using the protest tactic of the human mic,” said attendee Monica Cruz, FCRH ’16.
Associate Vice President of Public Safety John Carroll arrived at the demonstration after it had already begun. His only complaint was that the students had not followed official university rules about events.
“The policy is pretty simple, and it’s in the student handbook, and if they could follow that, it would all work much better,” Carroll said, but conceded that “they didn’t represent any threat as far as I saw, and they weren’t disrupting traffic.”
Security’s only intervention was to remove the petition and demands from McShane’s door. After taking it down, Carroll promised to deliver it to McShane. He delivered it to the president’s office that day.
The SAGES members hoped that their speakout would prompt university administrators, as well as students, to pay them more serious attention.
“Because we officially made our demands known, and because we had so much documentation, we can now expect that the administration will give us serious consideration and respond to our needs,” said SAGES intercampus liaison Sapphira Lurie, FCLC ’17.
“Though we’ve gained a lot of attention in the press, on social media, etc., many students still aren’t aware of who we are and the changes we’re fighting to bring about on campus,” Cruz added. “Our survey shows that a majority of Fordham students disagree with the University’s policies on contraceptives, so we hope to garner more support from people as passionate about sexual health on campus as we are.”
While Field is optimistic about the future of SAGES, she still believes there is more work to be done.
At the time of the publication of this article, SAGES had not yet received a response from McShane about their demands, although they did meet with the Dean of Students, Christopher Rogers, and Field reported that the speakout was “taken very seriously by the administration.”
Still, Field doubts that a meeting with McShane will happen this week.
If that meeting does not happen, she said, the group will take its protests further. Another protest is already planned for Nov. 20 at 4 p.m. at Lincoln Center.
“I think this is a long process—change doesn’t come quick, it doesn’t come easy,” Field said. “And there has never been a student movement that got anything accomplished by simply asking for it.”
Following the speakout, the university released a statement acknowledging the demonstration.
“Fordham recognizes that there is—and should be—a diversity of opinion on matters of faith at a Catholic university, and especially at a Jesuit one,” the statement, which was supplied to The Fordham Ram by Dean of Students Christopher Rogers, read. “We are nonetheless committed to the teachings of the Church, and as a part of our mission we model those teachings for our students, including those on contraception…For that reason, Fordham neither distributes, nor permits distribution of contraceptives. The only exception to this policy is the prescription of birth control pills for medical reason unrelated to contraception.”
This article appears differently than the print version following a correction.
Katie Meyer is the News Editor for The Fordham Ram.