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An unofficial student group at Fordham University petitioning the administration to make contraceptives available on campus has reportedly gained the support of more than 1,000 students, despite the fact that such a change to University policy would undermine Fordham’s Catholic identity.

The group, now known as Students for Sex and Gender Equality and Safety (SAGES), has petitioned for “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,” according to The Fordham Ram. After presenting the petition to the administration, the group began its first public demonstration on campus.

The Cardinal Newman Society reported on SAGES at the beginning of the fall semester. The group’s activities reportedly included distributing condoms at football games and homecoming events, despite Fordham’s policy prohibiting distribution of contraceptives on University property or during University-sponsored events. SAGES’ social media campaign, launched in early September, has reportedly attracted the attention of a great part of the student body.

“There are many things at Fordham that go outside of the bounds of traditional Church teaching,” a representative from SAGES said in an interview with the Newman Society.

“More than one thousand students signed in support of us to make these changes, and since many of our student body is Catholic it is clear that many young people within the Catholic tradition are also looking to push for changes,” the student continued.

“Fordham has proven that it is willing to struggle within the Catholic tradition to make progress, and our demands are merely another place to struggle for progress within the Catholic tradition,” said the representative.

Reaction from the student body appears to be mixed. The Fordham Observer recently published an opinion piece from a student writer, who noted that Fordham’s “student body may be very liberal for the most part, but we have to remember the identity of our University, one that we were made aware of even before we enrolled.”

The student continued, “If anything will be accomplished, the demands need to be changed and adapted to be compatible with Fordham’s Catholic identity.”

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It remains unclear how many Catholic students at Fordham support the policy change. While the petition has garnered more than 1,000 signatures, the University states that current undergraduate enrollment alone exceeds 8,300 students, and total enrollment tops 15,000.

Christopher Rodgers, assistant vice president and dean of students, released the following statement to The Fordham Ram concerning the controversy:

Fordham recognizes that there is—and should be—a diversity of opinion on matters of faith at a Catholic university, especially at a Jesuit one. 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.

rally in support of SAGES is scheduled to take place on November 20 in New York City, prompted by the feminist organization “Women Organized to Resist and Defend,” which says it stands for “access to safe, legal abortion and birth control—on demand… healthcare that covers these services and access to it for all women… [and] an end to abstinence-only sex education in our schools,” according to its website.

Reprinted with permission from The Cardinal Newman Society.

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