COLUMBIA — The Missouri Students Association announced Monday the installation of six condom dispensers in MU residence halls as an implementation of the pilot Sexual Health and Safety Products Initiative. The condoms are free and are packaged with an instructional health safety pamphlet.
The initiative has been two years in the making. The effort began in 2006 when the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity joined with MU student health to send proposals to the Missouri Students Association and Department of Residential Life.
The initiative’s purpose is to make condoms easily available to students in order to combat an increase of sexually transmitted diseases at MU. MSA passed the first piece of legislation in the Sexual Health and Safety Products Implementation Initiative later in 2006, supporting the distribution.
“There are a lot of people who worked very hard to see this proposal actually come into effect,” said Nate Ballance, vice president of the Residence Halls Association. “So I commend everyone who worked on it – students, faculty and administration alike.”
One dispenser is located in each of the following residence halls: Gillett, Mark Twain, Center, Bingham, Lathrop and Wolpers.
The locations, according to MSA, were selected by a student-driven task force and are based on dorm location in order to maximize student access across campus. The locations are discreet, and specific locations can be identified by workers at the hall’s front desks or at the Sexual Health Advocate Peer Education Web site.
The dispensers' discreet location is one of the four conditions outlined earlier this year by the Sexual Health and Safety task force, which is composed of sexual health professionals. The conditions included external funding, discreet placement of tamper-proof product dispensers, student request for the dispensers through their residence hall government and a measurement system for the effectiveness of the dispensers. The Residence Halls Association plans to survey students in the target halls to gauge the program’s usefulness.
But the initiative was not without its setbacks.
Installation was initially scheduled for this past summer but was delayed when the bags that held the condoms were getting stuck inside the machines. This required a $950 switch to cardboard boxes.
The decision to dispense female condoms added another $1,025 to the total. The cost of each dispenser is $1,800, and stocking for the year costs another $500. The residence halls and MSA split the cost of the dispensers. If the pilot program is successful, the Residence Hall Association said it will cover additional costs and will look into a yearly fundraiser.
“I am not a huge proponent of the idea, but it is something that the students wanted, and that is ultimately who I am working for,” Ballance said. “Most of all, I want them to encourage respect and responsibility.”
Free condoms are also available at several other campus locations, including the Student Health Center, the Women's Center and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Resource Center.