With programs like the Great American Condom Campaign, which has donated millions of condoms to college campuses all over America, free condoms are almost a perk of college life on many campuses.
Tufts University and many other schools offer condoms in college via vending machines alongside snacks, while select machines at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania even dispense a $25 emergency contraception pill. One enterprising student at the College of New Jersey in Ewing Township even created his own hilarious business running late night emergency prophylactics to students in need while wearing a blue flashing light on his head.
But not all colleges are so accepting of safer sex practices. Earlier this year, Boston College underwent some controversy after threatening disciplinary measures against a student group called BC Students for Sexual Health who were handing out condoms from designated, “Safe Sites,” inside their dormitories. Boston College is a Catholic university, and as such, it does not promote the use of contraceptives. But since the group was not using college funding to obtain the condoms (most were donated), the students involved (and later, the ACLU) argued that the sexual decisions of their adult students were not the business of the school.
When I was an RA in college, I experienced a similar problem. Although I went to a very sex positive school where there were buckets of free condoms at every event, free monthly STD/HIV testing, and even free safe sex counseling services, the dorm where I worked was shared with a local Catholic university. Because of that school’s policies about contraception, we could not distribute condoms to our students incase the students from the other school somehow got their hands on them. Not like they could go to the 7/11 across the street and buy a twelve pack of LifeStyles or anything, right?
At one point, I hosted an educational safe sex program and had even obtained free samples of not only condoms, but lube and other products, but was told at the last minute that I couldn’t give them away. Instead of hoarding my lifetime supply of condoms all to myself, I made sure all of my residents knew that if they ever needed some help, I’d rather they come to me than risk it. Plenty did.
Another Catholic university decided to take a different approach to their students handing out condoms. In 2013, a student group called H*yas For Choice at Georgetown University began offering bulk condom deliveries to school events and parties to promote safe sex. While some cited that having contraception so readily available might encourage a hook-up lifestyle or sexual abuse, the school responded by saying that so long as the group wasn’t using university funds, they were more than welcome to spread the love. [georgetownvoice.com]
With nearly a third of college students reporting that they’ve had more than two different partners in the previous twelve months, and an estimated one in four college students reporting an STD or STI, it seems like we can’t do enough to promote safe sex on college campuses. For many students, having an extra stash of condoms available during their first time away from home and on their own can prevent them from making a big mistake, and might make it feel less embarrassing to purchase their own in the future.
Should private schools control their students’ access to contraceptives? Even if they aren’t the ones paying for it? Where is the line with distributing condoms in college campuses? Does giving one to your roommate who’s in a pinch count as distributing?
How easy is it for you to access condoms in college campuses?