S.A.G.E.S. Goes Public: A Look Behind The Protest



“I don’t want to have to call people,” Rachel Field, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’15, said as a group of S.A.G.E.S. members met in front of Cunniffe House, “but this is important and they should be here.”

The group of about five students at 12:15 p.m. on Nov. 3 doubled to about 10 before they had decided to enter the administration’s building to deliver their petition, calling for several changes to Fordham’s policies on sexual health resources and education, free speech policies and trans student treatment, to Fordham President Rev. Joseph M. McShane.

“We are representing the 1,100 students who signed our petition,” Field said, leading the group into the building.

Once inside, they found a huge set of double doors.

They knocked.

And then they knocked again.

“I guess he’s not going to be here. Let’s begin the taping,” Field said, ripping a piece of tape off with her teeth.

“Does anybody have scissors?” another protester asked.

Halfway through posting all sheets of the petition on the double doors, a security supervisor arrived. He allowed the protesters to finish.

“If you put it in the middle like that, it’ll rip when you open the door,” the security supervisor said as protesters were figuring out where to put the letter addressed to McShane which demanded a meeting between him and members of S.A.G.E.S. before Nov. 7.

“If we don’t get a response back by Friday, we are going to escalate the situation,” Field said. “When students speak, they must be heard, and if we aren’t going to be heard, then that’s what it is going to have to be.”

This escalation refers specifically to a Nov. 20 rally, “which will be called off if our demands are met,” Field said. They are planning on inviting organizations to Fordham for a protest; prospective guests include Women Organized to Resist and Defend (W.O.R.D.), Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R.) Coalition and the Latina Institute.

W.O.R.D. has organized a letter writing campaign.

The protestors left Cunniffe house about five minutes after entering, preparing to host a speak-out to get students on campus involved in their cause.

Assistant Vice President of Public Safety John Carroll was alerted of the situation and was called to the scene. Once he arrived, he asked to speak with an organizer.

“He was like, ‘I can bring that to Father McShane if you want,'” Field said, retelling her interaction with Carroll. “If you want to go take it down, you can. That’s crazy. This is a f*cking police state.”

“Well, what happened is that Rachel asked that the petition be delivered to Father McShane, and I will make sure that happens for her,” Carroll said. “One of my supervisors went to get the petition, and I’ll make sure Father McShane gets it.”

While S.A.G.E.S. members were asked to move their protest from the middle of the street for their own safety, the administration and the office of public safety had no intentions of stopping their protest. Despite this, the group was followed by two security supervisors during their speak-out.

“The students … united … will never be defeated,” Field began chanting on her way to McGinley Center  as other S.A.G.E.S. members answered her call-and-response.

Once organized in a circle in front of McGinley, other S.A.G.E.S. members, fresh out of class, joined the rally, each telling a personal story about why they support S.A.G.E.S.

“I support S.A.G.E.S. because women’s health is human health,” one student, Sophia, said.

“I support the S.A.G.E.S. coalition because sexual health is a human f*cking right,” Monica Cruz, FCRH ’16, said. “I support the S.A.G.E.S. coalition because religion is not more important than my health.”

“Fordham recognizes that there is–and should be– a diversity of opinion on matters of faith at a Catholic university, especially a Jesuit one,” Bob Howe, senior director of communications, said in a written statement when asked for an official response from the administration.

“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. In this we seek to strike a balance between individual conscience–our students are free to possess and use any form of birth control they choose–and endorsing behaviors that run counter to Church teachings.”

“For this reason,” the statement continues, “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.”

During the protest, Field challenges this idea.

“I suffer from ovarian cysts. And because of Fordham’s policies, I had to get surgery for a hernia that was caused by ovarian cyst ruptures,” Field said. “I had repeatedly asked Fordham to give me contraceptives, with a medical letter, and was denied.”