Two first-year students recently chose not to participate in part of a sex education presentation offered at UCLA’s freshman orientation for religious reasons, prompting confusion about whether the presentation is mandatory.
Bella and Angelica Ayala, twin first-year biology students, said they wanted to be exempt from part of UCLA’s mandatory sex education presentation in late August because of moral objections to contraception.
New Student Orientation lasts three days and includes informational sessions on extracurricular activities, academics and class enrollment procedures at UCLA, as well as discussions about topics like sex and alcohol.
The 90-minute-long program is called “Socially Speaking: Life Outside the Classroom” and covers the topics of sexual assault, alcohol and substance abuse as well as sexual health, said Roxanne Neal, director of UCLA’s New Student & Transition Programs.
One part of the program includes a skit about sexual consent, during which students are encouraged to openly discuss what constitutes consent between two parties, she said. The program isn’t segmented and is meant to be cohesive because these topics can overlap, she added.
Angelica Ayala said she and her sister are Catholic and, according to the Catholic Church, sex is meant for married couples and procreation.
The sisters said they disagreed with the birth control that was promoted during the presentation, such as condoms and birth control pills.
The twins said they thought attending the presentation was mandatory, but they still asked if they could be excused from it, and were told by counselors they could sit out during parts of it.
Angelica Ayala said she asked to excuse herself from a portion of the program due to moral objections with the discussion taking place and is not being required to make up the section.
But Bella Ayala, who put in her headphones instead of leaving the presentation room, is being required make up the section by orientation staff at the event.
Neal declined to comment on whether or not Bella Ayala had to make up part of the presentation for privacy reasons. She added that neither of the twins had approached her about the issue.
The twins said they were confused by the staff’s response to their actions. They said they were not sure whether or not attending the presentation was mandatory.
Following the incident, UCLA released a statement about the sex education presentation and the disagreement.
“The goal of the presentation is to provide health and safety related information to incoming students, and it in no way advocates either sexual activity or abstinence,” the UCLA statement said.
The university said in the statement that attendance is mandatory.
“As part of UCLA’s commitment to creating and maintaining a healthy and safe campus environment, all new UCLA students during orientation are required to attend an education program developed in accordance with state and federal guidelines,” the statement said.
The California Education Code states that information on sexual assault should be provided to new students.
“Comprehensive information about acquaintance rape and other kinds of sexual assaults should be provided at all new student orientation programs and at any campus program that students are required to attend,” the code states.
Before the presentation, the sisters also passed out pamphlets with information on sexually transmitted diseases. The pamphlets promoted abstinence as a way to avoid these risks.
The pamphlets were, however, confiscated because it was a private event, Bella Ayala said.
Students are more than welcome to pass out literature as long as it is in a publicly accessible place such as Bruin Walk, Neal said.
The literature was confiscated because the program follows specific guidelines to comply with state and federal policies and the pamphlets were not distributed on behalf of the program, Neal added.
“I wish the school would be more forthright about what sections of the presentation were mandatory and which were not,” Bella Ayala said. “Students should have more of an opportunity to express concern or decline to attend that section of the presentation.”
Bella and Angelica Ayala said they are seeking the help of the Life Legal Defense Foundation to clarify the confusion and ambiguity in UC, state and federal policy on the issue.