Dear Calvin Parents

Dear Calvin Parents,

In light of the “condom caper” on Valentine’s Day, in which an unknown party left condoms and notes promoting safe sex in the library bathrooms, it became clear to me and plenty of other students that a lot of Calvin parents weren’t aware of the truth. I think it’s fair you know this: your student may be having sex. If they’re not having sex, they are probably friends with somebody who is. At the very least, there is a decent chance they want to have sex with someone.

Somewhere on campus as that event was unfolding, a friend quipped with sarcastic firmness: “But wait, nobody’s having sex!” We burst out laughing, because we knew the obvious. Students are having sex, and most everybody knows it. Sure, we may not always know who, in particular, but we all know there are people on campus who have passionately disobeyed their signed student conduct codes, snuck through the residence halls in the dead of night past open house hours, and violated the sacred purity seal of the all-so-holy Calvin-Lock.

My point in saying all this is not to stir up trouble, or emotions, or hateful emails to staff and administration. I am saying this because I, and many other students on campus, know it to be true, and to pretend like it isn’t is to contribute further to the myths of Calvin College that seem to pervade parent discussion groups and admissions meetings. Calvin prides itself on its unique Christian approach to real issues in a real world, but what you sometimes see are in fact misrepresentations of what people tend to experience.

The question isn’t always whether to have sex or not have sex, but about whether abstinence-only sex education is going to keep students, who, again, are already having sex, from doing so safely. We call ourselves pro-life; the question is not always whether one is pro-life or pro-choice, but how we might keep someone from having to make the decision of whether or not to get an abortion in the first place.

This is truly a matter of transparency. I would not fain to argue that Calvin should not endorse a view the administration considers biblical. What I am arguing is that in spite of what the college might want, or hope, or communicate, there are in fact certain realities to the experiences of students on campus and citizens at large.

In our oft-referenced but rarely fully-acknowledged bubbles of American evangelical Christian experience, the unspoken assumption tends to be that issues like these belong to some amorphous “other” besides us. “Someone is having sex and getting pregnant and deciding whether they should get an abortion, but it’s not us.” At best, often, “We need to help them.” Calvin ought to take the reality of their student population for what it is if they ever hope to achieve what it could be.

There are gay kids on campus, out or not, that need affirmation. There are intelligent, responsible students who are having sex with their significant other. There are loving, thoughtful individuals who do not subscribe to any religious creed. I tell you now, these are not just the people you read about in student newspapers or see on reality TV. They are your sons and daughters. They, too, are the students of Calvin.


A Calvin Student