Sex. Sexuality. Highly charged words with varying implications across our campus. When I sat down as a member of the Jackson Fellowship cohort, I would never have imagined the impact these words can have, nor the amount of pushback we would have received from those who claim to be completely open-minded.
The Jackson Fellows were asked to work on a year-long project that impacts the campus. The only instructions we received were to center it around civic engagement and keep our directors informed on our progress. Given those “guidelines,” we started brainstorming possible topics, ideas and methods of implementation. With such loose limits, we had difficulty starting our project. Each of the Jackson Fellows had differing ideas and it took a while to wade through the ideas and evaluate them for goodness of fit for our interests and personalities. The idea that came out on top was “Let’s talk about sex.” We realized that the idea of sex and sexuality is taboo on our campus.
Through many meetings, emails and one-on-one conversations, we began to narrow our topic and reach out to on-campus offices and organizations. As we honed our focus, we began to look for partnering organizations. We looked to the examples set by Harvard, Yale and others. Some people had very strong opinions for or against our topic. Our directors tried to stay supportive while keeping us in check. However, there were offices and entities that were skeptical and less than pleased with our topic. They said we were trying to get attention by using a “shock and awe” approach. They asked us to change the name from The SEXinar Series to something along the lines of “Sex, Sexuality and (fill in the blank with some other boring academic and stuffy title).” As students ourselves, we wanted this lecture series to be by the students and for the students, academic, but also more relevant to our lives.
This process has made me question the transparency of our campus and our freedom of speech. It is an interesting dynamic between academia and the Catholic Church. I feel the administration has, overall, been accepting of differing opinions. Take the Vote No advertisement in The Record. The administration did well to not require approval of the content before publishing and then to allow a fair rebuttal from the opposite viewpoint.
So you can imagine my surprise to their pushback of a mission statement that says, “The SEXinar Series at CSB/SJU is a week of programming organized by students in the Jackson Fellows Program and geared towards the student body. The goal is a series of interdisciplinary, thought-provoking conversations. Our objective is not to promote sex but rather to promote conversations about sex, in particular, how sexuality may or may not connect to issues related to the environment, media and relationships at CSB/SJU. The conversations will be inclusive of all faiths, sexual orientations and beliefs. Whether students are sexually-active, believe in abstinence or just want to know more about the topics, the SEXinar Series covers concepts that are relevant to all CSB/SJU students.”
What they seemed to be fixated on was the word “sex.” The word carries some negative connotations and is not well accepted by the administration. They wanted to change it, sugarcoat it and make it less out in the open. That attitude is the very thing we set out to expose. We, the Jackson Fellows, hope that the events we have created will cause conversation on campus. Conversations about sex- not the act of, but rather how sex and sexuality are connected to the environment, media and our relationships.