MU task force works on plan for free condom distribution

Wednesday, March 5, 2008 | 10:34 p.m. CST; updated 1:42 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008
The letter from MU Chancellor Brady Deaton approving the proposal from the Sexual Health and Safety Task Force in December.

COLUMBIA — Free condoms in MU residence halls are one step closer to becoming reality, after an MU task force met Wednesday to plan the program’s implementation.

MU Chancellor Brady Deaton approved the proposal from the Sexual Health and Safety Task Force in December, but the push to provide condoms in residence halls began in 2006 when the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, concerned about an increase in sexually transmitted infections, proposed the idea to the Department of Residential Life.

The task force, a committee composed of sexual health professionals, heads of campus organizations and student leaders, outlined four conditions for distributing condoms in its proposal to Deaton. The program must be funded externally, use discreetly located and tamper-proof product dispensers, require students to request the dispensers through their residence hall governments and have its effectiveness measured by some form of evaluation.

In approving the proposal, Deaton added one more condition: “Continued active student participation through at least one, but hopefully more, campus student associations in planning and implementation is required,” he wrote Dec. 17 in a letter to Cathy Scroggs, MU’s vice chancellor for student affairs.

At the meeting Wednesday, the task force reviewed the chancellor’s response and began identifying individuals who will be involved in the plan’s implementation, Director of Student Health Susan Even said.

“We don’t have a timetable,” Even said. “We’re literally taking the first step.”

Many students agreed having free condoms in the residence halls was a practical idea.

Sophomores Alli Adolphson and Lindsey Goetz, both 19, said they remembered talking about the proposal with their peer advisor last year.

“It wasn’t an argument about whether we wanted them or not, it was more like where are we putting them,” Goetz said.

In her all-girls residence hall, Goetz said, the location of the condom dispensers was debated: Should they be available in the women’s bathrooms or in a public area such as the kitchen where male visitors could also have access?

But some students in the residence hall weren’t happy with the idea of condoms in public areas, Goetz said.

“A couple girls said, ‘We definitely don’t want this.’ They were saying, ‘If I’m washing my dishes I don’t want to see someone coming in for a condom,’” Goetz said.

Free condoms are currently available at several campus locations including the Student Health Center, the Women’s Center and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Resource Center. John Faughn, coordinator of the LGBTQ Resource Center, says not everyone who picks up condoms at the center is in a same-gender relationship.

In discussing how the task force was created, Mary Jo Banken, director of the MU News Bureau, said, “(The chancellor) supported this student-led effort and their plan. Basically he said, ‘I do support this, but it must be done very carefully.’”

Efforts to contact other task force members, such as Frankie Minor, director of Residential Life, and Kim Dude, assistant director of the Wellness Resource Center, were unsuccessful as a collective decision was made that all press communication on the matter be handled by Banken and Even.

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