USF Should Maintain Religious Roots

The shocking recent events brought to light regarding sexual violence and misconduct at USF—particularly the crimes alleged to have been committed by senior Ryan Caskey—have thrown the campus into an uproar and produced a bevy of responses, most notably (for my purposes here) the articles published in The Foghorn. The paper has done an excellent job covering the story fairly, responsibly; of particular note is the extensive article by writer Samantha Blackburn.

But an opinion article following almost directly on the heels of the crisis, to my mind, missed the mark; its range being far too broad. Indeed, I am not sure if the author, Ms. Kate Elston, knew her target, and I was left confused as to her purpose for writing it.

I may have misunderstood, but what I think is her purpose is wrong, and I feel obliged to speak.

In her article, Ms. Elston seemingly cannot make up her mind which issue to address: the alleged rape of the paucity of the pill and other birth control resources, not provided directly by the university: so that, in the end, I am left to either conclude she meant to say that condoms and such prevent rape and sexual harassment, or meant simply to take a tragedy as the springboard for another agenda. The first is foolishness, the second duplicity.

Obviously, rape and contraception have nothing to do with one another, aside from the tangential fact that both pertain to sex.

But, seemingly, Ms. Elston feels that, should this Catholic university provide, contrary to its conscience, birth control, etc., to its students, its students will be safe from sexual assault.

And, despite the fact that most of the services and information demanded by Ms. Elston are easily obtained off campus, not far away, she feels that a quick Google search for “the nearest Planned Parenthood” or a trip to the Walgreens on Divisadero are too much.

Or perhaps the argument is this: “We students are not capable of being responsible for ourselves or our actions. You be responsible for us.” Which, if true, is absurdly childish, unfair, and—to be frank—stupid.

Now, if I seem too harsh, let me say it is obvious that Ms. Elston has nothing but good intentions, and that she is spot on in complaining about the lack of information regarding how to protect oneself from sexual harassment and assault. Where she strays, both in pertinence and in logic, is the business about the lack of “condoms in dorm bathrooms,” etc., leading (apparently) to rape. Or I misconstrue her meaning, which is easy to do, with so loose sheaf of arguments throughout.

Or, as I said earlier, she is not concerned with addressing rape or sexual harassment on campus at all, but is rather concerned with de-Catholicizing the college – despite the fact that she says she “know[s] we’re a Jesuit campus.” (I cannot help but hear in this a hidden sigh of regret, as if she wishes we were not so.)

Whether or not Ms. Elston wants to further dilute the Catholic identity of the school in this – whether or not, even, her arguments have merit – her method of presenting them as a response to the recent scandal is misleading; or her mind has been misled into thinking that, somehow, this was a response to the scandal.
In truth, it is not. It is an opportunistic attempt to hijack a tragedy, one of many I have heard bandied about the campus in the last few weeks. Admittedly, I differ in what I will call “ideology” from Ms. Elston. But my complaint here is not about ideology; it is about method, tact, and, above all, logic. There was very little logic behind Ms. Elston’s article; behind the notion that her proposed measures will prevent further sexual violence and harassment on campus. And there is a sort of juvenile “deal with it” attitude behind her terse shot, “We are humans. We are sexual beings. We are having sex.”

Unfortunately, “deal with it” here seems to mean, “Deal with it, so we don’t have to deal with it ourselves.”

Christopher Hall is a junior English major.

2 thoughts on “USF Should Maintain Religious Roots”

  1. I don’t believe Elston ever suggested that USF students would be safe from sexual assault if they were provided with birth control. The way I interpreted her article, she attempted to draw attention to the fact that, along with the issue of sexual assault, other sexual health/safety issues are not commonly addressed on campus and should be discussed.

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