S.A.G.E.S. & Admin: Stuck on Semantics

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By ADRIANA GALLINA
News Editor
Published: November 19, 2014

Students for Sex and Gender Equality and Safety (S.A.G.E.S.), a student coalition advocating for sexual health access and other student rights at Fordham, and the administration so far can agree on one thing: a petition with 1,100 student signatures is not something to be ignored. 

Dean of Students at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), Keith Eldredge said, “A petition with 1,100 students is a compelling thing to continue a dialogue about.” 

But S.A.G.E.S. wants more than a dialogue. “The meeting with [Associate Vice President and Dean of Students at Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) Christopher Rodgers and five of our members lasted about two hours. It was very conversational,” a core member of S.A.G.E.S. Wilmarie Cintron-Muniz, FCRH ’15  said. “We got to discuss some of our demands, but not in specific or substantial ways, so to speak.” 

On Nov. 3, S.A.G.E.S. delivered their petition to Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University, and demanded a meeting with McShane. After multiple cancellations and rescheduling, several core members of S.A.G.E.S. met with Rodgers on Nov. 5 and Nov. 13. S.A.G.E.S. and administration are planning subsequent meetings.

“I don’t want to speak on behalf of the president,” Eldredge said in regards to why S.A.G.E.S met with Rodgers instead of the President. “McShane hires staff folks to cover various topics on campus. My interpretation is that he wants to put students in contact with the folks best equipped to handle their concerns. In this case, most the requests fall under Student Affairs.”

S.A.G.E.S. continues to be frustrated by lack of action. Cintron-Muniz said, “This isn’t just four or five students saying these things need to be changed.” She continued, “I think [the petition] empowers us to speak on these things and demand to move towards more progressive policies.”

Eldredge thinks a dialogue can lead to action. “Part of what I see as continuing dialogue and conversation is they have these demands, okay so where is room for compromise, where is room for growth, where is room for action? Can we do exactly what they’re asking for?” he asked. 

That question is where things get even more difficult. Fordham is not a Catholic school, rather Eldredge explained it as, “We are a private institution run in the Jesuit Catholic tradition.”

“You don’t have to want to be Catholic to be here, you don’t have to be Catholic. But we are going to uphold Catholic morals and traditions,” Eldredge said. 

Cintron-Muniz said, “For Fordham to use that as a reason, [contraception] is not a Catholic value, seems like imposing a religious doctrine on somebody who doesn’t value that tradition. It’s ludicrous.”

In keeping with Catholic morals, the University forbids sexual intercourse on campus. This is explicitly stated in the Moral Growth and Responsibility clause in the student handbook.

One of the eight “demands” S.A.G.E.S. has revolves around contraception access on campus. “The Catholic Church is just not with the times anymore,” Rachel Fields, FCRH ’15, another founding member, said. “Students are having sex whether they like it or not. The University has a responsibility to make sure it’s safe.”

Cintron-Muniz said, “There’s all these ways in which Fordham chooses to take the safety of its students seriously. Having the highest rates of [sexually transmitted infections] in the country is a real safety concern.”

Fields continued, “[Fordham] can make exceptions for other things. For example, we have an [Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer] LGBTQ group on campus, which is one of the reasons I came to Fordham.”

S.A.G.E.S. has announced a protest on Thursday, Nov. 20 at 4:30 p.m. at starting outside FCLC and culminating at Columbus Circle. 

“I’m hoping to be there to at least hear what they want to express in a protest,” Eldredge said.

According to Fields, groups planning to attend the protest include, Women Organized to Resist and Defend (WORD), Planned Parenthood, Naral Pro-Choice, Latina Institute for Reproductive Health NYC, Damayan Migrant Workers, New York City Youth Leadership Council and students from other New York City colleges.

In response to these groups presence, “I’m more concerned about members of our community not to say I’m dismissive of outside influences,” Eldredge said.