Can Sex Education Be Found On Manhattan College’s Campus?


The most important part of college is graduating with a degree, but college includes more than just that, such as extra curricular clubs, parties, dating and so much more. For many, college includes a world of sexual activity, but unfortunately, many students are never given a proper sexual education before attending Manhattan College.

Yet getting that proper education at Manhattan College is not an option either.

The college focuses on education against sexual harassment and assault but the education ends there.

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Kasper and Zduniak presenting their findings on consent and the Lasallian tradition at Sain Mary’s University of Minnesota. GABBY KASPER / COURTESY

According to the Manhattan College website, “Manhattan College is committed to providing an environment not impaired by sex and gender-based misconduct, including sex discrimination and sexual harassment.” There is no information about the dangers of unprotected sex or sexually transmitted diseases and students do not have access to condoms on campus because of the college’s Catholic policies.

Jordan Pascoe, Ph.D, a philosophy professor has taught the course “Love, Sex and Friendship” and Co-Director of the Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center. Pascoe has concerns about the discussions about and around sex on campus.

“I’m worried that what we have in place of sex education is a lot of discourse on sexual assault and harssment,” said Pascoe.

She feels this is dangerous because students are more likely to get STIs when they do not have proper health education. Additionally, she expressed her fear that students are only being taught how not to be raped.

“Given that we can reasonably expect that very few students have had any type of constructive sex education, that seems like a deeply dehumanizing message to send to students,” said Pascoe.

Seniors Alyssa Zduniak and Gabrielle Kasper took the opportunity to turn a group project from Pascoe’s class into a summer research project. They were intrigued on how little they had heard the College discuss safe sex. With the guidance of Natalia Imperatori-Lee, Ph.D, Zduniak and Kasper were able to form this project in accordance to their own ideas and arguments.

“We were required as a part of the class to create an understanding of sexual interactions that thinks beyond consent and the simple ‘yes’ requirement,” Zduniak said.

The project titled “Consent Through the Lasallian Lens” combined modern feminsit theory and Lasallian tradition in order to evaluate Manhattan College’s consent policy.

Zduniak and Kasper both shared that lack of sexual education in high school.

Citing stories of her public school health teacher shoving her arm in a condom and poking guys to say that was how sex feels for women losing their virginity, Zduniak said, “I’m just an adult, on a college campus with no solid sexual education background.”

Kasper went to a private school where there were 50 students in the entire school and 8 people in her class. She had an “embryology class” that was more of a biology class rather than an actual sex education, but was still informative.

“My class and I fought for STD education so that was something that they brought a nurse in to teach our whole school about,” Kasper said. Kasper said she went out of her own way to learn about sex and sexual health that was provided on the Planned Parenthood website.

The Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center has made tremendous strides in regards to feminine health. The center is only allowed to provide menstrual products and female lubricant. They host “Love in the Dark” which allows students to attend and ask questions about sexual health and relationships. The only opportunity where condoms can be obtained on campus is during the Take Back The Night event that is hosted by the center, which is only allowed because the event is protected under Title IX.

“We should have condoms in dorms, accessible at health services, they should be the easiest thing to come across in the world,’’ Pascoe said.

With such a lack of access to health products, conversation and education about sexual health and safe sex, it can be hard to figure out how to address the issue. Zduniak and Kasper believe the issue can be addressed in the context of the Lasallian tradition of educating the vulnerable.

“MC can teach sex ed better by first acknowledging that there is a need for this education,” said Zduniak.

“Of course in De la Salle’s time, this vulnerable population was young lower-class boys. Now in the 21st century we can see a different vulnerable population, specifically women and queer people, but ultimately this vulnerable population any student who is not receiving the sexual education necessary to be a safe and sexually active adult,” said Kasper.

Beyond students wanting to be responsible, educated adults in their own sexual health, the lack of sex education at Manhattan College impacts students who plan to be physical education and health teachers someday. The college does not offer a health major on campus, so students who plan to teach both physical education and health will need to find health certification elsewhere.

After graduation, senior physical education major Michael Kiely intends on teaching Physical Education at a public school, which would also include him teaching health to his students.

“Almost every Physical Ed job on the market right now requires a dual cert in P.E and health as the P.E teachers are the teachers for both of these courses. This means I have to go find this certification at another institution,” said Kiely.   

After completing much of his major requirements, and entering his last semester at MC, Kiely does not feel he has learned enough about sex education to effectively teach his future students.

“The knowledge I received in sex ed was limited at best although it was all true and useful information. It scrapes the surface of sex ed and does not really go much beyond common birds and the bees condoms and STI’s,” he said. “I do not feel I have learned a sufficient amount, due to the limit time that was allotted for teaching sex ed it was all briefly gone over and many details are left out. In high school, the sex-ed unit lasted three weeks. Here at MC, it was about two days if that.”

While the college does not have a health major or certification, kinesiology professor Shawn Ladda, Ph.D., does her best to educate her students about sex education as much as she can in the course Personal Wellness.

“My approach to teaching the sexuality unit is from a health educator perspective.  I provide the students in my classes much content knowledge as well as opportunities to discuss a variety of topics and to ask questions.  I say to students at the beginning of the unit that I will provide much content and you must decide how/when to use this information according to your values and beliefs,” said Ladda.

Within the sexuality unit of Personal Wellness, Ladda endeavors to cover a number of topics.

“The topics range from gender roles/expectations, healthy relationships, by-stander training (Green Dot) to preventing STDs.  Embedded in this unit are also two workshops required for teacher certification in New York State including the child abuse training and violence prevention,” she said.

“Human sexuality is an important part of life and we should all be informed and knowledgeable to make positive decisions for oneself that align with one’s values and beliefs,” said Ladda.